Skip to main content

Full text of "An eye on the world : oral history transcript : reviewing a lifetime in photography / 2003"

See other formats

University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

Wayne F. Miller 

With an Introduction by 
Daniel Dixon 

Interviews Conducted by 

Suzanne B. Riess 

in 2001 

Copyright 2003 by The Regents of the University of California 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading participants in or well-placed 
witnesses to major events in the development of northern California, the West, and the nation. Oral history 
is a method of collecting historical information through tape-recorded interviews between a narrator with 
firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with the goal of 
preserving substantive additions to the historical record. The tape recording is transcribed, lightly edited 
for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The corrected manuscript is indexed, bound 
with photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of 
California, Berkeley, and in other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a spoken 
account, offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply 
involved, and irreplaceable. 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement between The 
Regents of the University of California and Wayne F. Miller, dated 
August 3, 2001. The manuscript is thereby made available for research 
purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to 
publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the University of 
California, Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for 
publication without the written permission of the Director of The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to 
the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Bancroft Library, Mail Code 6000, 
University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000, and should include 
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the 
passages, and identification of the user. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 

Wayne F. Miller, "An Eye on the World: Reviewing a 
Lifetime in Photography," an oral history conducted in 
2001, by Suzanne B. Riess, Regional Oral History 
Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, 
Berkeley, 2003. 

Copy no. 

Wayne Miller 

Photograph by Joe Munroe 

Cataloging Information: 

Wayne F. Miller (b. 1918) 

An Eye on the World: Reviewing a Lifetime in Photography. 2003, ix, 195pp. 

Chicago background, family, early experiences with a camera, Art Center School; Naval 
Photographic unit, Edward Steichen, Hiroshima; Guggenheim to document the northern Negro, 
1946-1947; work for Life and other magazines; move to the West Coast, a house in Orinda; 
thoughts on "getting the shot," darkrooms, other photographers, museums, the market for 
photography, teaching; cover photography; discusses assignments, favorite stories, the birth series; 
creating the Family of Man and The World is Young; role with American Society of Magazine 
Photographers, and Magnum agency; moving on to become a forest landowner. 

Introduction by Daniel Dixon. 
Interviewed 2001 by Suzanne Riess. 

The Wayne F. Miller interview was made possible by a generous grant from 
the Sophie S. McFarland Memorial Fund of the Bancroft Library. 


INTRODUCTION by Daniel Dixon i 



Interview I 

Gordon Parks, Challenging Oneself 1 

Photographing Blacks, "Making" and "Taking" Pictures 5 

Family Background 7 

Chicago Neighborhood and Friends 9 

More on Parents 1 3 

First Camera, First Photography Job 17 

Equipment Details 1 8 

Art Center School of Photography 21 

Interview II 

The War and the Naval Photographic Unit 27 

First Meeting Steichen 30 

Particulars, Cameras, Captioning 32 

Battle Stations 34 

The Children of Naples 3 6 

War Photographers, Conditioned to "Shoot" 37 

The Bomb, Hiroshima 39 

The Dealers, Collectors, Print Quality Questions 45 

Thinking about Picture Magazines and Information, and Museum Openings 47 

Marriage to Joan 50 

Interview III 

Newsweek Covers, Marshall McLuhan 51 

The Doukhobors 52 

Editorial Struggles with Life Magazine Space, Layout, Rate 54 

Sputnik 56 

Close-ups, Rapport, Photographing Children 57 

Thoughts on Cameras, Getting the Shot, Art, Beauty, Et Cetera 58 

The Birth Series 62 

Baby s First Year and the Captions 64 

Problems of Teaching, Chicago Institute of Design 65 

Photographing "The Way of Life of the Northern Negro," Chicago 68 

The Market and a Gallery in New York 71 

The Continued Value of the Project, Terkel Interview 72 

The West Coast, Viewed from the Time-Life Building 76 

Interview IV 

Moving West: Choosing a Community in California 79 

Architectural Decisions 81 

Working from a California Base 84 

Assignments: Loyalty Oath, Science, Sally Stanford 86 

Assignments: Farmer s Wife, Jayne Mansfield, John Wayne 89 

Assignments: Korean War, Migrant Workers, Thoughts on News and Privacy 91 

Assignment: Richard Nixon, Thoughts on Job Tensions 96 

Other Bay Area Photographers 1 00 

Interview V 

World Trade Center Bombing, 9/11, and Photographing War 103 

A Conversation about Intentions 1 05 

9/11 Images 107 

Too Good to be True 1 09 

The Idea of The Family of Man 1 1 

Gathering and Choosing the Photographs 1 12 

Legitimizing the Snapshot 115 

The Millers, and Steichen 116 

Paul Rudolph, Designing the Exhibition 117 

Interview VI 

Photography in Museums 121 

Shirley Burden 123 

Darkrooms and Papers and So On 125 

Gene Smith s "Paradise Garden" 128 

March 1955, The Show Closes and Wayne Moves On 130 

On to The World is Young 1 3 1 

American Society of Magazine Photographers 134 

Magnum Picture Agency 136 

Disaffection Sets In 140 

Interview VII 

Steichen and the Millers 143 

Becoming Forest Landowner 144 

Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan 147 

A View of the Environmental Movement 150 

A View of Wayne 1 52 

Special Assistant to the Director of the National Park Service, NEED 155 




Biographical information, current to 200 1 . 165 


1995 summary of Wayne F. Miller s body of work. 167 


Newspaper release announcing Meritorius Service Award to Wayne F. Miller from the 

National Park Service. 1 69 


Plans for work, written in 1946. "The Way of Life of the Northern Negro in the United States." 

Notes to self in March and November 1946. 

Notes on a visit to Provident Hospital emergency room written in November 1 946. 

Notes from June 1947 work. 171 


Unedited notes written in 2002 for possible inclusion in oral history. 1 89 

INDEX 193 

INTRODUCTION by Daniel Dixon 

I own a print of the eloquent photograph you see here. Wayne gave it to me for a very 
compelling reason. I had the guts to ask for it. 

We have a valued friendship, Wayne and I. It reaches back over fifty years and entitles 
both of us to ask the other guy for occasional favors. Whenever I m in Wayne s neighborhood, I 
invite myself to dinner and usually expect to be spared the expense of a hotel. In return, I provide 
Wayne with some editorial yard work that he seems to find helpful. The beauty of his print only 
partly explains why I get by far the best of the bargain. 

The photograph is placed in our living room. It s surrounded by a cluster of portraits by 
Dorothea Lange, another friend of Wayne s. Nobody ever interpreted the human face with greater 
understanding and sensitivity than my mother, but our visitors are more insistently drawn to 
Wayne s study of his troubled daughter Dana than to any of the neighboring Langes. They look, 
look again, and then begin to ask questions. 

Who is this child? they want to know. Why is she weeping? Is it grief? Rage? 
Humiliation? Loneliness? Injustice? Is this the ending of a tempest? Or is it just the beginning? 

Different folks, different strokes. Each viewer has his or her own theory. But on one 
point almost everybody agrees. They find the photograph strangely unsettling. "It makes me 
slightly uncomfortable," some people admit, and I think I know why. 

I, like others, feel pierced by the purity of Dana s gaze. She looks straight at me, into me, 
through me. Those eyes seem to perceive my weaknesses, my pretensions, my hypocrisiesmy 
secret self. They reproach me. I can t look at the photograph for more than a minute or so. Then 
I have to glance away. 

Many of Wayne s photographs the photographs I like best-are also mysterious. They re 
not declarations or prophecies. They preach no sermons, sound no trumpets, lead no charges. 
They simply suggest possibilities. The stories they tell are still unfinished, and we can only guess 
at their endings. 

That s not very surprising, because Wayne himself is an enigmatic man. He rarely talks 
about himself, and then only with restraint. He seldom mentions his dreams and never his 
nightmares. Not once in all the years we ve known each other have I ever heard him curse. 
Though not distant, he s detached. At this or that event or family gathering, he usually lingers at 
the edge of the laughter and the conversation, somewhere between the light and the shadows. My 
wife once asked him why, with half a life still ahead of him, he decided that he no longer wanted to 
be a photographer. "I was tired of being on the outside, looking in," he answered. "I wanted to 
join the party." 

Well, perhaps. But that was many years ago, and nothing much seems to have changed. 
With or without a camera, Wayne remains a habitual and instinctive observer. While others whirl 
in a waltz, he watches and wonders. 

Because he s so naturally reticent, I had my doubts when Wayne first told me about the 
plans for his oral history. I wasn t sure that he could or would reveal his essential feelings. But 
Suzanne Riess, his interviewer, has adroitly asked the right questions in the right way, touched the 
most sensitive nerves and memories, and Wayne has opened up. 

Nevertheless, there are some things about himself that Wayne hasn t confided or maybe 
even considered. Here are just a few thoughts that I believe deserve a place on the record. 

As you turn these pages, you ll discover that Wayne Miller has been and done many very 
different things. He s been a photographer, but also an editor, a business executive, a tree farmer 
and a viniculturist. How, if at all, are these diverse interests and enterprises linked? What do they 
and Wayne have in common? 

I have an answer to that question. 

Wayne s father was a surgeon. "Were you close?" I asked him not long ago. "Yes, he 
answered. "He was a wonderful man. Deeply dedicated. Faithful to his oath. I admired and 
respected him very much." 

From his father I believe that Wayne inherited a certain sense of service. He served (and 
risked his life) in the navy during World War II. After the war, on a Guggenheim fellowship, he 
served the cause of understanding in the work he did on Chicago s seething South Side. He served 


for two arduous years as Edward Steichen s lieutenant in the shaping and mounting of the historic 
Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Later, he headed the tumultuous zoo of 
photographers called Magnum a sacrificial service if service there ever was. When he eventually 
gave up photography and became a timberman, he served as an organizer, the president and a 
Washington lobbyist for an industry association devoted both to the harvesting of trees and the 
conservation of forests. And throughout the years, whatever else he s done, Wayne has served his 
family. He may or may not agree with me, but I m convinced that service has been the quiet but 
most consistent theme of his life and work. 

One thing I know for sure. He s certainly served me long and well as a friend. 

It began half a century ago. I was then in desperate trouble homeless, helpless, hopeless. 
I don t know howperhaps through my motherbut he and his wife, the indispensable Joan, 
rescued me. They took me in, fed me, sheltered me. They gave me comfort, company, 
encouragement. Never in the weeks that I lived with them did they ever harangue me about what 
I d done wrong or should do right. They accepted me as I was, without intrusion or complaint. 
And they still welcome me the same way today. 

I was talking with Wayne on the phone awhile back, and he said something that suddenly 
made me laugh out loud. His wit, like his wisdom and his affection, is unobtrusive. If you don t 
pay very close attention, you may miss it. This time I didn t. 

My wife was standing there, smiling and shaking her head. "You two are lucky to have 
each other," she said. 

"I know," I answered. "I just hope he feels the same way." 

So there it is. Blurred, indistinct, out-of-focus that s the snapshot of my friend Wayne. 

Now it s his turn to say something for and about himself. 

Speak, Wayne. 



Wayne F. Miller s is the latest in a series of oral histories of photographers completed by 
the Regional Oral History Office. We started in 1961 by interviewing Imogen Cunningham. In 
1968 our oral history of Dorothea Lange appeared. In 1978 Ansel Adams s memoir was 
completed. Three greats in the smallish local photography world. In 1991 an eighth grade student 
in Orinda, California doing a school report on The Fifties discovered that a "famous photographer 
[of the fifties]" lived in Orinda, and with some tutelage in oral history that student, Evan Elder, 
conducted an hour s taped conversation with Wayne Miller and donated it to the Regional Oral 
History Office. It was obvious to us that the subject deserved a full memoir, and so we hovered 
around the idea of Wayne for the next ten years, while looking for funding to do his oral history. 
In 2001 allocation of monies from the Bancroft Library s McFarland Fund enabled us to do that 
longer memoir. 

Wayne Miller is a documentary photographer, and with him those words cover big 
ground. After admittedly rather cursory training with a camera during college, and a short time at 
the Art Center School of Design, he joined Edward Steichen s World War II Naval Photographic 
Unit where he saw and shot plenty of "action" and photographed the aftermath of Hiroshima. In 
1 946 he was back in his hometown of Chicago, and used two successive Guggenheim Foundation 
grants to take a close look at Chicago s black population, a project recently re-published as 
Chicago s South Side: 1946-1948. He had a successful run of magazine assignments, picture 
stories for Life that had him covering returning soldiers from the Korean War, aspects of the movie 
industry, developments in science, religion, politics, in everything that seminal weekly magazine 
cast its gaze upon. He worked from California, where he had moved in 1949. He was recognized 
for the emphasis in his photographic stories on the individual very human being. 

In 1953 Wayne, and his wife Joan and their four children, moved to New York City at the 
behest of Edward Steichen-earlier Wayne s chief, ultimately a very close family friend to join 
Steichen in conceptualizing and curating the Museum of Modern Art s Family of Man exhibition. 
That groundbreaking project had a long run-after the 1955 opening and publication of the 
catalogue, it traveled the world more or less continuously until 1964. The Miller family returned 
to Orinda and Wayne had the support and the time and the place for a successful book project, The 
World is Young, looking at a theme dear to him, childhood and family and by default, the fifties. 

Wayne kept up magazine work through the 1960s and 1970s, but he also began to be much 
involved with the American Society of Magazine Photographers, and Magnum Photos, Inc. He 
took leadership roles in both organizations. In 1967 he answered a call from Washington 
requesting advice about the "visual image of America s parks" and ended up a special assistant to 
the director of the National Park Service until 1970. In 1971 he was executive director of the 
Public Broadcasting Environment Center. He was pulling away from photography. Indeed by the 
mid-1970s he was questioning the meaning, and meaningfulness, of the photographic work that 
came his way. And by then Wayne and Joan, who owned extensive forestland in northern 


California, were viewing tree farming and the issues involved in that stewardship as important and 
gratifying work, another good use of Wayne s energies and organizational skills. 

Now in 2003, as the Joe Munroe frontispiece portrait of our subject indicates, Wayne 
Miller settles daily at a table and a computer in his studio-plus-office and fields requests for prints 
of his photographs and invitations to talk about the South Side book, and tends to the business 
related to being a tree farmer. This room is where we met to interview. It is accessed by an 
outside staircase, diverting the visitor from the house and leading to a comfortable high-ceilinged 
wood-paneled aerie, with a couch and chairs and tables and bookshelves. A wall of east-facing 
windows gives onto a view of trees and treetops. On the opposite, inside wall is a compelling 
display of dry-mounted favorite family photographs, and objets both memorialawards and 
medals and sentimental. He puts in a big part of each day up there, and in the past several years 
has had help in further organizing what is already by necessity the highly organized archive of a 
professional photographer. In a video I made [deposited in The Bancroft Library], Wayne takes 
the viewer on a tour of the studio space, the darkroom, the storage areas, explaining where things 
are kept and how. 

Wayne and I met up there in the studio for seven interviews, starting in August 2001 . He 
took his seat in a chair, and I sat on the couch, with papers and notes and the tape-recorder on a 
handy table. To illustrate a point, or to answer a question, he would frequently rise up to retrieve 
examples, a picture, notebooks, whatever might be helpful in telling the story. (Many of the 
retrieved examples are included as illustrations in the oral history.) I despaired at his 84-year-old 
agility I rose with difficulty at the end of our two hours. 

Wayne is a charming person, and a thoughtful, serious, and also sometimes a little jokey, 
teasing interviewee. I know he didn t tell me "everything." Later he and Joan and I had several 
lunches after the morning interview sessions during which I know that I was being interviewed a 
bit, and being "found out," and it gave me pause to realize how much I both fell in with and 
resisted that parallel experience. Was this what it was like to be constantly on the receiving end of 
a process and a person determined to get answers? 

In his fond introduction Daniel Dixon speaks of a somewhat enigmatic Wayne Miller, and 
of course it is my hope that this oral history makes known some of the unknowns. But I did begin 
to wonder whether this testimony about a life that is elicited in response to an oral historian s 
questions is a final uncovering, or not. It isn t just immediately clear with a somewhat evasive 
subject. But the oral historian has the advantage of time, and there is perhaps a subtle grinding 
down to bottom truths. Thinking of Wayne s heartfelt commitment to individual dignity in telling 
his photographic stories, I hope the oral history is similarly humane. 

Thanks to Wayne, and to Joan, for a great reception and acceptance of the process. 
Thanks to James R. K. Kantor for his review of the oral history. Thanks to Jack von Euw for 
insisting it had to be done. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established in 1954 to augment through tape- 
recorded memoirs the Library s materials on the history of California and the West. Copies of all 


interviews are available for research use in The Bancroft Library and in the UCLA Department of 
Special Collections. The office is under the direction of Richard Candida Smith, Director, and the 
administrative direction of Charles B. Faulhaber, James D. Hart Director of The Bancroft Library, 
University of California, Berkeley. 

Suzanne B. Riess 
Senior Editor/Interviewer 

May, 2003 

Berkeley, California 



Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California 
Berkeley, California 94720 

(Please write clearly. Use black ink.) 
Your full name \*S A^Z F 

Date of birth 

/ 9 ? 

Father s full name 


Mother s full name 

Your spouse/partner -/<g- 

Your children 



, Birthplace 

Birthplace /S &US -J f^f2 &, yS 


Where did you grow up? 
Present community 

Occupati n(s) 

Areas of expertise 

Other interests or activities 

Organizations in which you are active 



[Interview 1: August 2, 2001]## 

Gordon Parks. Challenging Oneself 

Miller: Photographers know each other through each other s work, as much as we do by face to face 
relationships. In fact, talking about this one time with Henri Cartier-Bresson, he said 
relationships with other photographers are kind of like ships that pass in the night and go 
"toot-toot" to each other. I remember one time well, I can give you several stories that may 
be of interest to you. 

I hadn t met the photographer from Prescott, Arizona, Frederick Sommer, but I liked his work, 
and he had seen some of my work. We met at a photo conference in Aspen, Colorado, and we 
just embraced. Like I said, we were strangers but we were old friends. Another time I 
remember being with Harry Callahan in his apartment in Chicago, in his loft in Chicago, when 
we both were teaching at the Institute of Design there. Harry and Eleanor [wife] were great 

He loved to dance. God, he loved to dance. After both of us drinking too much, maybe Joan 
having a little too much, he would grab a hold of Joan and just waltz back and forth through 
that big loft. It was just marvelous. He prepared the meal, which was usually half a pound or 
so of bacon in a big frying pan with a bunch of eggs scrambled into it. 

Anyway, I m getting to the point which is that during one of these parties he showed me what 
he had been doing recently, an 8 x 10 box holding something like 250 prints. I d never really 
seen his photographs in depth. I was going through those. He was dealing with abstract 
things, and I was dealing with people as a subject matter. That abstract sort of thing puts me 
off to a degree. I really can t grab it to the degree that so many photographers enjoy doing it. I 
was going through it, going through it, and I finally came to this picture he had made of the 
embossed bottoms of two sardine cans. 

I looked at those things, and all of the sudden I realized what Harry was doing. Somehow or 
other, it all became clear, everything he was doing, those two sardine cans set it off. I sat there 
with Harry with tears rolling down my face. His abstractions came alive. They opened my 
eyes to his world and the emotions they could evoke. 

Riess: Can you say more what was it that you realized? 

1 .## This symbol indicates that a tape segment has begun or ended. 

Miller: It was something about the organization of those shapes, and the light, the way it fell on it. It 
came alive. They related to my world of photographing people and people s emotions. 
Somehow those damn sardine cans set it off. Anyway, going back now to Gordon Parks. 

Riess: You said you felt strange about the Gordon Parks exhibition at the Oakland Museum. 

Miller: Gordon is such a fantastic human being and a fantastic artist. I say that not advisedly but 
wholeheartedly. He s probably closer to being a Renaissance man in the arts than anyone I 
know. He s better in some of his fields than others, but by God, he s somehow just tops in all 
of them. The respect I have for him, I can t find words to describe it. We ve met, never 
worked together, but we ve met at different times in our lives. I d admired his work in Life 
magazine before I d really met him. 

During the opening of The Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New 
York this is 1955~we were all there in tuxedos and so forth. It was very formal, a lot of 
people, and I saw Gordon with his back to me, talking to a group. I walked up behind him and 
put my arms around him. He rolled his head back and he said, "Wayne Miller." I m saying 
this because this is the kind of a guy he is. No matter where he is, he s in control of himself, 
and he understands that atmosphere, that mix that s around him at that time. He s such a sweet 
person, a considerate person. 

We ve met several other times, but it s been first a kind of mutual liking for one another. But 
also in my case, what he s done has been--. He s dug so deeply into a world that hurts him to 
dig into. I m talking about the racial aspects of it. He has not only surmounted prejudice, but 
he s able to dig into it. He s able to make use of it, as well as to rise above it. 

Riess: Have you talked to him about that material? After all, that was material that you got into, too. 

Miller: No, I didn t talk about it as such. Our conversations, if I can say again, were above that. We 
were talking about family, issues about family. I saw him just recently. He came out to 
Oakland just recently and I spent a couple hours with him in his hotel room. We talked about 
really very general subject matter. It was interesting one thing we were discussing was about 
giving our children money. Is it good or bad? And the mixed feelings about that. 

I was doing this book on Chicago, Chicago Souths ide. I felt it would be great if Gordon could 
participate in this, maybe write a little introduction to it. I hadn t seen him or talked to him for 
several years, so I picked up the phone and called him. He said, "Sure, I ll be happy to." Time 
went on and I thought, "Well, he is terribly busy." He was putting a big exhibition together, a 
retrospective of his life, with all his work. I thought maybe he was just too busy. So I wrote 
him a letter--! hadn t heard from him and I realized that I was asking a great deal-and said, "If 
it s too much of a bother just forget about it, don t do it." 

About a week later I got a call and he said, "I ve got it done, Wayne." We talked further and 
he said, "I worked on it until five o clock this morning. If you don t like it, tell me what to do 
and I ll change it or rewrite it." But here in the midst of this pressured time in his life, he found 
time to do this. The final product was one that he had really, I m sure, spent much time 
thinking about. He shared in this essay his own feelings about his own life, so, so much of 
himself was in this, rather than just being a workmanlike job of doing an introduction for a 
friend. He gave something to me there, and I am most appreciative of that. 

As far as his work goes, he struggled from one period of his life to another. I remember 
hearing both from him, as well as from Steichen, about when he came to Steichen and asked 
Steichen to arrange Gordon wanted to work for Vogue, and he hoped that Steichen might 
provide an introduction there that would be helpful. I never really got a full story from 
Steichen about it, but I feel that Steichen did not make a real effort to introduce Gordon to 
Vogue, if he made any effort at all. Why? I don t know. It could be any number of personal 
reasons. I don t think they ever had any falling out or differences of opinion. 

In a way I was talking to Joan about this the other dayI wondered if maybe Steichen didn t 
want to recommend someone who might fail in Vogue s eyes and maybe reflect upon him. I 
don t know, this is just wild thinking on my part. 

Riess: Steichen was the MOMA director at that time? 

Miller: Yes, this is just after World War II, 45 or 47, something like that. I think Gordon in his 

book~his last book was called Half Past Autumn, and in it I believe he touches on this, but he 
doesn t go into it. I believe, in conversation with Gordon, that he feels that Steichen didn t help 
him too much, didn t go out of his way. 

It was important, Gordon was moving so quickly in the development of his own work that this 
was a logical step. When he finally did work for Vogue, he did some fantastic things for them 
and they were highly appreciative of it. This was a stage of his life that he wanted to 
experience and go through. So much of his life has been that way. From different stages in 
photography and stages in writing. He wrote The Learning Tree, as you know, that first book. 
That s a beautiful book about his early life growing up. 

Riess: His big color work was a surprise to me. 

Miller: He s continuously experimenting. Evidently he has a studio, I didn t know he had a studio 

space. He likes light, the play of light, the things that happen, and the movement. The color 
doesn t do as much for me as the black and white when it s the abstract world. But it s not 
unrelated to his interest in music, where things flow and where things just happen. You 
discover things when they happen in the period of experimentation. 

Riess: It s interesting that as you re describing him, the steps in his life are very planned, quite 

Miller: He doesn t hesitate to go beyond where he is. I don t know how deliberate it is or whether he 
just can t stop from doing it. I think he s of a nature where he has these urges and he has to do 
them. Like his music, he s written a lot of music, and I think there were performances in 
Europe of his full-scale orchestrations and some of the symphonies that he had done. Of 
course, he got involved in the movie business, and he did "Shaft" and a couple of other 
movies, and then one of his sons got interested in it and started doing some of the same things. 

He s just so full of talent that he can t keep it in. 
Riess: Why did you say that you felt strange about the Gordon Parks show? 

Miller: First, I feel that it s too big a show. I d like to see it edited and not have been so big. I think a 
show can suffer by having too much, so much that after a while you can t see it all. It loses 

those qualities that come through because of a concentration of ideas. He s had so many great 
ideas, and they were explored with too many images, so that I couldn t taste that intensity of 
flavor that could have happened with tighter editing. 

Also, this may not be true in Gordon s case, but I know it was true in Steichen s case, after 
you ve achieved a great deal. Steichen always wanted to do something new that he had never 
done before, and it had to be better than anything he d done before. He s one of the few people 
I know who can lift himself up by the bootstraps and move on and go into new territory. I 
think this is somehow directly related to getting older. You find that time is running short, and 
you ve got to make a mark in some of those areas that you haven t yet explored. 

I know that s the case with Steichen because at the end of The Family of Man this was a major 
peak in his life, and while we were cleaning up after that exhibition, he was planning on doing 
a bigger show on women. In other words, he was going to top The Family of Man. He was 
going to do other things. I think some of this shows up in Gordon s exhibition. He was trying 
to push into new areas that he had experimented with and done very good work in, but now he 
wanted to do a real big thing on some aspects of it. Some of this abstract work, some of the 
nudes, from my point of view, and maybe I m totally wrong, I feel this is symptomatic of those 
drives. When I talked to him about doing this piece for me in my book, Chicago Southside, he 
was in bed with torn Achilles tendons in both legs. 

Riess: How did he get that? 

Miller: He gets this from running every morning. He runs I forget how many miles, four, five, six 

miles every day. Here he is, at this time probably eighty-five or eighty-six when he tore these 
tendons from this strong exercise. He was in bed and he said, "I m recovering now, this 
happened about a year ago and I m still suffering some, I m still bed-ridden to a degree, but I m 
able to get up and move quite well. I think I ll be able to be running now in about another 
couple of months." This kind of drive, he s a captive of his own energies, you know? 

Riess: There s nothing enviable about it, is there? 

Miller: It s a drive, he s a driven man in many ways. But, my God, physically he s seemingly in great 

Riess: You talk about Parks going from the abstractions to the nudes and Steichen wanting to do the 
women. Do you feel that these men had something to say about women or nudes or 
abstraction? Certainly there were important things to say in The Family of Man, and in the 
early Gordon Parks work there was something very important to say. 

Miller: That s a tough one, Suzanne. I feel that some of the things I m talking about here with Steichen 
and Gordon, I think that inner drives don t have names. It may be one of wanting to get it out 
before it s too late, before they die, before they can t function. I can certainly understand that. 
I ve talked to you about the photographs I ve gathered together here of my life s work. I want 
to do something with it before it s too late for me to do any more with it. So I m pushed now to 
get that done. 

I have mixed feelings. It s a mix between ego and one of not being. I feel as if if I don t do 
it, I m leaving a lot of residue and unfinished business for my family to take care of. I don t 

like that, I don t like to be that messy. I want to be neater about it. This doesn t relate to 
Steichen or Gordon, I don t believe. We re talking about another facet here. 

Riess: Are you thinking "doing something" as book and exhibition? 

Miller: I m thinking about books, that sort of thing, because that s a form of organization. Exhibitions, 
per se, that can always be done after the material has been organized in the book. So I m not 
too interested in that. I do want to get it done. I m not trying to pick up my camera and do 
something I ve never done before. I m not trying to take my past work and try to make 
something new out of it that didn t exist before. I m not that kind of a talent, that kind of a 
producer that these people are. I don t pretend to relate myself to that. These people have a 
drive down deep and they can t stop. It s like a kettle that steam has built up in, it just has to be 
released somehow. 

Riess: That s very interesting. 
Miller: That may just be nothing but ego, I don t know. I just don t know. 

Riess: I wonder if some photographers feel that they are partly defined as "people who are not 
painters," and whether photographers have ever turned into painters. 

Miller: That s interesting. I understand that Henri Carder-Bresson, who gave up active photography 
some years back, has been painting ever since and has some exhibits at the Louvre. He wants 
to do more. Well, I don t know why he wants to do that rather than photography, but I do know 
that photography for me after awhile one s abilities and feelings are hard to get onto the 
photographic paper to the degree we could in earlier years. 

Maybe frustration is taking place in Henri s case where he wants to still get these things out, so 
he s going to painting. I don t know. As far as relating the basic drive to painting, I would feel 
it, Suzanne, as being one of wanting to be able to communicate it, wanting to be able to say it, 
no matter what vehicle you use. If painting seems to feel good, why gosh, yes. 

Photography isn t something special or sacrosanct that it has to be honored or what not. 
Recently Rene Burri, a Swiss photographer, asked me to autograph the Chicago book, and he 
had drawn some things in there on the title page, and a space for me to sign in. These are rich 
people who have talents, they can call on these various talents. I m envious of these people 
that can do these sort of things, they re blessed. 

Photoeraohine Blacks. "Makine" and "Takine" Pictures 

Riess: The Gordon Parks exhibition seemed as if it all had been printed at the same time. I don t 
know whether the images were printed for the show. 

Miller: I think it may very well have been a mechanical happenstance, because the negatives are 

owned, most of them, by Life magazine. To have prints for the exhibition, they were supplied 
by Life and probably printed by Life for this exhibition. So they were current prints. I can t 
answer that. Do you mean that they were too slick somehow? 

Riess: They seemed very dark, very black. I wondered if that is how they originally had been seen? 

Miller: I can t answer that, Suzanne. I wasn t sensitive to that aspect of them. He has that fine ability 
to create emotional feelings by the way the picture was photographed, as well as the way it 
was printed. 

Riess: To photograph black people, are there technical problems? Lighting? Those were dark 

Miller: I ve heard that feeling expressed before, but I ve never felt it. I ve photographed blacks in 
Chicago, and many times I used flash that ameliorates some of the problems you re talking 
about, the shadows and all. Also I was using flash because it was able to capture moments that 
using natural light wouldn t permit because of the lighting conditions, but even though it was 
white people, lighter skinned people, it wouldn t have changed my photography, I don t think. 

Let me put it this way: as a photographer, I never realized when I was taking pictures that these 
people were black. They were people, that s what I was trying to capture on my film. How 
they feel, how they were struggling, how they were trying to express themselves. I wasn t 
illustrating a concept that I had, it was one of trying to say what I thought they were thinking, 
trying to think with them. 

Riess: You were not a white man in a black situation, you were just a photographer with people. 

Miller: Yes, and I think that the majority of people I was photographing during that period might have 
felt the same way. I didn t have confrontations of that nature when I was working with them. 


Miller: The Rosicrucians, evidently you develop over your head an amorphous shape of some sort that 
has a color to it, and maybe a shape that s meaningful to another Rosicruicianist. I feel that 
maybe during this time that I was photographing blacks that I may have had the right color 
vapor over my head or something. Anyway, it just worked out that the color, my being white 
and them being black-any photographer that s really focusing on capturing what he feels is 
taking place, you don t see those other things. You re just seeing the glint in the eye, the way 
the body moves, the attitude of the face and so forth. The other is immaterial. 

Riess: Well, it s a great state to be in. You re saying there s no self-consciousness. 

Miller: No, no. I may be getting this out of order for you, but I was able to move within this black 
society on the south side of Chicago. I was the only white face around for blocks, outside of 
delivery people or the boss of a store someplace. I could walk down the streets alone any time 
of the day or night. I walked down the alleyways, I walked into tenement houses, walked 
down hallways. If I saw an open door, or hear some voices, I would smile and ask, "Do you 
mind if I make some photographs." Invariably I would be invited in. "Sure, go ahead." 

It s strange and it s related to that old saw that you don t know until you ask. It was lovely. 
Somehow or other, people accepted me, they didn t feel I was trying to take advantage of them, 
I wasn t trying to sell them a set of encyclopedias or life insurance. I was serious about trying 
to take some photographs and I wasn t going to hurt them. I d like to think that they felt that I 
could, maybe, tell their story and express the things that were of concern to them. I didn t ask 

them to stand there, or put their arm there. I never interfered a bit as to what they were doing. 
My opening statement would usually be, "Please keep doing what you re doing, it s lovely," or 
something of that nature. Strangely enough, people would do it. 

Riess: They didn t ask you how it was going to be used? 
Miller: No. 

Riess: I m struck by your choice of words~"making" photographs, not "taking" photographs. Two 
very different words. 

Miller: Actually I don t know, I could argue both sides of those two words. I wasn t no, I was, I was 
stealing images. But I was sharing, really. But I wasn t "making" the pictures either. That, to 
me, is illustration, where I d be moving images around within the frame, the picture frame, to 
express something that was not there. I wasn t creating props or bringing props into it or 
something of that nature. Just photographing what is there is tremendously exciting. 

Talking about "making" and "taking", Canada had a world s fair in Ottawa or something like 
that, Expo-something. During that time, there was a discussion group on photography, and I 
was part of it. It was Karsch of Canada [Ottawa], Gene Smith, somebody else, and myself. 
Plus a psychiatrist, and that was fascinating, his talking about photography. It got around to 
the point of "making" and "taking." "Taking" being a form of theft and "making" being one of 
using your subject to say something else. I m talking about illustration. The psychiatrist was 
the moderator in this discussion, and he brought up that the photographer holds this instrument 
between himself and his subject. He hides behind it, peeks through it, and then he steals 
something. So he removes himself from the reality by this camera he has out in front of him. 
I ve never forgotten that, and I wonder how true is it? That s life itself, to be able to see it and 
then to share it. To make photographs or take photographs, that s what it s all about. 

For example, the pictures I did in Chicago Souths ide with blacks, none of them seem to be 
conscious of what I m doing. It has been suggested that maybe because I was using this 
Rolleiflex, which is a reflex camera that I had hung around my neck and that had a waist-level 
viewpoint, that I was looking down into it rather than looking at them, it s been suggested that 
this might be a reason for that. Well, it may be, I don t know. I do know that since then, not 
using a reflex, my subjects don t change, so I question it. But it s a possibility. 

Riess: Some of the words associated with photography are unfortunate, if you really parse them, like 
"getting," I "got" the shot. 

Miller: Or I "shot" a picture. It may be that we just need an intelligent photographer to come up with 
better words. 

Family Background 

Riess: To go back to the beginning, you were bom on September 19, 1 9 1 8, in Chicago. Tell me about 
your Chicago and your family. 

Miller: My father was a practicing physician and surgeon in gynecology and obstetrics. I think he was 
in many ways a very simple man. He came from central Illinois, he was born in Casey, 
Illinois, I believe. He went through medical school in Chicago and then went on to New York. 
I don t know how he got to New York, but he was doing some internship at Bellevue Hospital 
in New York. One of the duties they had was to ride the ambulance. During one of those 
ambulance trips they delivered or picked up somebody or something at the Flower Hospital, 
also in New York City, and he met this young nurse, who was the supervisor of nurses there, 
who eventually became my mother. 

She was an Irish girl who had been adopted, she doesn t know where she came from. She was 
Irish, Ellen van Horn Dempsey. She was raised in New Jersey, Somerville, New Jersey I 
believe. Shortly after he met her, as the story goes~I say shortly, it was within a weekhe had 
learned of a job offer at a Guggenheim gold mine in Ecuador. They were asking for a medical 
team, so he proposed to my mother, they got married, and they went to Ecuador at the end of 
that week. 

This mine was back inland from the coast; they had to go over to the other side of the Andes. 
They were there about a year. When my mother became pregnant, she had malaria she was 
pregnant with my brother, my only sibling. He was born with malaria, and they decided that 
they had to get him out of there. They spent a week on mule-back to get to the coast. They 
also carried with them a small coffin. They didn t expect him to make it. But they did make it, 
got back to Quito, and took a ship back to the states and returned to my father s hometown, 
Casey, Illinois. The two of them nursed my brother for that period of time and got him back to 
health, recovered. 

Riess: What s your brother s name? 

Miller: Harold. My father s name is Harold Wayne Miller. I don t think he could have stood a third 
boy, he would have run out of names, [laughter]. This was on my grandfather s farm. My 
father s father was a farmer. His name was Benton Miller. 

Riess: Any relation to the [Thomas Hart] Benton painter? 

Miller: No. He was a state legislator for a short time. I say short time, because I don t know how long, 
but he suffered an injury, I think it was a horse injury, and lost his leg. They had a small farm 
that he and my grandmother operated. I remember my grandmother, I would visit her when I 
was very young. It s probably the earliest memory I have. I remember her out there in the 
field after my grandfather died. My grandfather had died a month before I was born. She was 
out there alone, walking behind this horse, holding the handles of a plow. She had the straps, 
the reins of the horse, over her shoulder while she was following the horse. That was probably 
not uncommon. They didn t have tractors then. 

She was quite an individualist, Julia Miller was. Later she got a car. I remember she had a 
Pontiac. Few of the roads were paved. She would drive this car, and since she was a farmer 
woman she was concerned with the fields and what was out there. If you were a passenger, 
she d be busy talking to you and looking at the farm fields. Several times we ended up in the 

Riess: Were you born out there, too? 

Miller: No, my father then eventually went to Chicago. He worked for the Montgomery Ward 

Company as a doctor. The flu epidemic came along in 1918, and as I understand it he was 
asked to stay there and be a doctor because they needed him, rather than World War Iit must 
have been before then. But I was born in 1918, in Chicago, where my father, mother, brother 
and I were living. 

Riess: Did your family talk about the Ecuador time? Was that kind of an exciting narrative as the 
years went by? 

Miller: Not in great detail. I have some early pictures of that time, some glass plates of some of that. 
I remember one photograph of my father, mother, and some other doctors aides standing 
around an operating table on which this amputated leg was laid. Why they wanted to make 
that picture I don t know, but that s the picture. There s another picture of my father holding 
the reins of a horse. My father s on foot and the horse, or mule, is tied to a post. My father 
also has a two by four, or something, and the old story was that you had to first get their 
attention to break these horses. That was another photograph I remember. 

Riess: Distressing images. 

Miller: As far as the romance, and things of that nature, from that period of time, I m sure they talked 
about them but I don t remember. 

Riess: It s a wonderful example of the power of the image, isn t it? 

Miller: Yes, it is. Words, I would assume, need context in order to be meaningful. Maybe the 

photograph has enough of those built into it so you can remember them more than a phrase or 
a story. 

I was raised in Chicago. My father was not a fashionable, wealthy, physician. I remember 
during the Depression he would often come home with some groceries that people gave him in 
payment for his work. Other times, he would work for nothing. During the Depression it was 
not easy, but not hard. As a youngster you don t realize that it s hard, or good, or anything. 
Everything is fine. I had a very happy childhood. 

Chicago Neighborhood and Friends 

Riess: What part of the city, and how racially mixed was your upbringing? 

Miller: It was the north side of Chicago, near north side, to begin with, and then as my father became 
more affluent, we moved further north into better neighborhoods. Invariably, we were on the 
edges of mixed neighborhoods, which in Chicago would be recent immigrants and maybe 
some blacks, and prostitutes, I remember that. After a while, then we could move out, beyond 
that, away from the closeness of that line. I mention some of these things because in my 
grammar school years I would sell newspapers. The Chicago Daily News. 

Riess: You had a corner? 


Miller: Sometimes a comer. I had one corner, I had a newsstand on it. There just happened to be a 
box there, and that was my newsstand. 

Riess: Was this part of your upbringing, that you had to work? Was there some lesson in being a 
paperboy or did you really need the money? 

Miller: I wasn t aware of needing the money, per se. I just don t know why, but it was always very 
important to me to work, [tape interruption] 

[looking at photograph] 2 This is the first home that I remember living in, I guess I came there 
shortly after birth, 4331 Hazel Avenue. It was a six-flat, three flats, side by side. It was a 
comer right in the neighborhood of Montrose and Broadway and Sheridan in Chicago. Across 
the street, there was an empty lot which they grew corn in. It s fantastic to think about corn 
growing in a city. Right now there s a great big building there. It was a community where 
there was a mixture of ethnic groups. We had some Greeks, some Italians, Germans, Jews, 
Catholics. Also, just about a block away, we had some blacks. 

It was one of those communities which were viable, just moving from one group into another, 
consolidating some groups. I know we had a stretch of buildings there with prostitutes in it. 
So it was a real viable community. In fact, I was selling newspapers, you know, where you d 
get your newspapers and put them under your arm and go down the streets. We d come up 
with all kind of ways of attracting attention to ourselves, and yelling, Extra! Extra!, as though 
it was some new news breaking and it wasn t at all, it was just a way of calling attention to the 
fact that we had newspapers. I remember whenever any of the supposed prostitutes would buy 
a newspaper from me, there was always a tip, which is unlike selling newspapers to other 

My brother was four years older than I was and he had a different gang, like a different 
generation. Four years, that s a big difference when you re young. So I was always being 
teased or excluded from his group. I remember one timethey would gang up on people, just 
like they d gang up on me and my same-age friends, and tell horror stories. We had a 
basement, a dirt floor in our building, with little cubbyholes for tenants to store their things, 
and that was a great gathering place for all kinds of stories and experiments of sorts, I suppose. 
One of them I don t know if it was true or not, but my brother claimed that they d hung this 
kid up by his thumbs down there. It probably is braggadocio rather than fact. 

I do know that one time a new family moved into the neighborhood, in this case Jewish, and 
they were taunting the young boy, and my brother took an egg and slid it down the back of his 
sweater or shirt or whatever and broke the egg. From then on, he was known as "Eggs". A 
cruel thing, but so much of our lives were quite direct and forthright. Thinking of today s 
children and what they do after school, after school we rough-housed and fought, and it was 
very physical, and very much a measuring stick of position within the groups as to how strong 
you were. You didn t cry. If you did that was a sign of weakness, and that would attract more 
attention. And yet I had great experiences there. 

We were just about two or three blocks from the edge of Lake Michigan. There was an empty 
building site, probably big enough for a building, which wasn t there. It was an empty lot, and 

2.1nserted from Interview 7 


that lot, because it was so close to the lake, was all sand. You d dig down a little bit and it was 
just this beautiful lovely sand. Marvelous for playing in. We would dig into that, and I 
remember one time we built a shack, a little hut, on top of it. Then underneath it we built this 
secret hole, to protect us from the bigger boys. Also kind of the secrecy of it was great fun. 
Then we dug down further, probably four or five feet deep. Then we started digging laterally, 
over to the edge of the adjacent apartment house and under the cement sidewalk and into the 
wall of the house. We took the bricks out and made an entranceway into the basement of that 
apartment house. 

This woman, an older woman, it was a two-story apartment house, and she owned it and lived 
alone there in the first floor apartment. And when she found out we d done that, oh, it just 
upset her so much. We did it just playing, experimenting. She took it badly, or she felt that we 
didn t like her, and it was too sad, because she was awful nice to us. She would frequently ask 
us to go down and get a bottle of Pluto Water for her. That was a bottle of salt water, a saline 
solution of some sort, with a little siphon spigot on the top. She d always give us a tip for 
doing that, she was always kind to us. It always kind of hurt me, the fact that we d done 
something that had upset her. 

We had a marvelous time there. George Nickopolus, my closest friend, he lived in the second 
floor of that apartment house, with his two sisters. I remember Asa and Alexandria. It s funny 
how you remember things. George and I were in grammar school together. It must be that all 
Greeks had very thick slices of bread, because his sandwiches always had big thick slices of 
bread, and I always related that to Greeks. Crazy you know, of course. George and I were 
always playing around doing things. I remember we decided we were going to run a telephone 
between his second floor apartment and my second floor apartment. We were separated by a 
yard at his end of the line, and then an alleyway, and then some garages, then a little yard on 
my end, plus to my porch. Our telephone consisted of just cord, I think it was, it wasn t wire. 
We had a Quaker Oats box at his end, and I had one at my end. We were able to get a little 
sound out of it, but nothing really competitive with a telephone system. 

We had such great fun doing those things. Down the street there was another building, 
adjacent to the empty lot, a three-story building. One time, I think it was a Graf Zeppelin came 
over Chicago, or another rigid airship. One of the kids, they went up to the roof of this 
apartment house to look at it and one of the kids fell off and was killed, watching this big 
airship. Anyway, it was a fascinating period and it flashes back in my mind, things that took 
place there. 

When I started going to junior high school we moved from this apartment house to another 
one. We always moved into a new neighborhood that was just on the edge of falling apart or 
disintegrating. It was never into a firm, solid, established community. It was one that was 
somehow on the way out. I think it was not unrelated to the fact that my father was a 
struggling young physician and surgeon and doing his best under the conditions that were 
possible. It was certainly a rich experience. 

Gosh, the kids that I knew then! George Nickopolus, and a fellow named George Schein, he 
lived next door there. Oh, let me tell you about the fellow that lived on the floor above us in 
our apartment house. It was Al Sutton. He was a pianist, just a few years older than I was, but 
he was good, one of those fellows who just was good. He was a close friend. I remember one 
day my father was working I don t know if he was working with me or he was working on his 
own-but he had a crystal set. A crystal set is for a radio, it s an old tuning device. It was 


called a "cat s whisker," the little wire that rubs against this crystalsomehow it relates to 

My father was trying to tune in this one station and he worked and worked and worked on this. 
I remember this so clearly. He had earphones on. And finally he got the station! And oh, 
what a great success that was for him. He took his earphones off and gave them to me, and I 
couldn t hear a thing. What it was is that no radio programs were broadcast on Mondays, and 
it was Al Sutton upstairs playing the piano that my father heard! 

Time-wise, I remember our apartment house faced a street; we were at the end of this street 
coming down to us from Sheridan. My father had a garage about a block away. My father 
would park the car in the garage and walk down this street, but you could see him, he was 
visible that whole distance. I remember it was 1927, and I put the front page up against the 
window, about Lindy [Lindbergh] landing in Paris, in France, he had made it! It was a great 
moment. I held the paper up against the glass so that he could see it coming in. I don t think 
we had car radios then. Anyway, those little recollections, those are some of the things that I 
had down here. 

Riess: You had a good relationship with your father. 

Miller: Yes. He tried so hard, and there was such a gap between us as far as. We didn t do very many 
things together, but I don t think that was necessary. I remember in the morning he d come in 
to wake me up for school and kiss me good-morning. I could smell ether in his lungs. He d 
already been to the hospital and done some surgery and come back from the hospital to waken 
me to go to grammar school. I remember that so clearly. When I smell ether today, 
immediately I m thrown back to those moments. 

The apartment houses we lived in, they were crammed cheek to jowl, but the back of these 
apartment houses had wooden back porches and wooden steps going down to the small back 
yards. The next apartment was separated by a little breezeway or light well, maybe twelve feet 
across or something like that. I remember one evening our neighbors, never did know who 
they were, they had a real knock-down-drag-out fight. These porches, we all had a wooden 
swing hung by chains to sit in, so they had one too. I remember this big yelp, on the part of 
this man, and he ran out the back porch, and he hid underneath this swing, all crouched up. 
Not only were they having a fight, but his wife had actually bitten his thumb off! It was really 
something. I can remember him huddled up there, completely exposed on all four sides, 
underneath this hanging swing. Poor devil. 

Riess: The gangs weren t along ethnic lines? 

Miller: No. Ethnicity didn t play a part, at least in our age group, it had nothing to do with it. It was 
just a case of whether a person was easy to get along with, or wasn t. If they weren t easy to 
get along with, why they wouldn t be a part of the gang. It wasn t a big deal. 

Riess: When you sit here and reminisce, is it like a photograph that you re looking at? 
Miller: It s graphic, very much so. 3 

3. End of inserted matter from Interview 7 


Our neighborhood in hindsight, our family was the minority. We had Greeks, Jews, Italians, 
and some Germans, and the Miller family. These were the kinds of kids I grew up with. My 
best friends were this group. The grammar school was similar. In grammar school, to give 
you an idea of it, because I was well fed and not beaten by my parents, I had a little more of a 
balanced way of life than some of the other children in grammar school did. I was often given 
some special jobs by the teachers or principal. 

In this one case, I was given the job of working out of the office, and I was there when a family 
was present, a Polish family I believe, a mother, father, and boy. They were having a strong 
argument with the principal and the principal said, "Every child has to have a bath once a 
year." Their argument was that, no, they were not going to bathe their boy. It came down to 
the fact that this boy was prepared for winter, and his underwear had been sewn onto his body. 
First they would put oil or grease on it, they would sew it up and they were going to take it off 
next spring. This was a basis for disagreement. I m using this as an example of the kind of 
grammar school it was. 

I was not necessarily a strong young boy. I was active, but not strong, a very slight build. 
Very cocky, I had lots of energy, and frequently irritated other students. So I would frequently 
get involved in fights. I remember one in particular. If you had a fight, you wouldn t fight in 
school. After school you d go out in the back yard to this place-it was a space surrounded by 
concrete where they dumped ashes, or something like that. That s the area we would go to for 
fights. I remember this one time I was out there, and I had to defend myself. I think this boy s 
name was Louis, and I didn t do very well. He just cleaned up on me. He was black, and we 
were very good friends after that. 

It was just one of those things you took in stride, it wasn t life and death. You had to do it in 
order to get through the day. There were other fights I had and what not, but as I recall my 
wife says I only remember good things and don t remember bad things. But I recall an awful 
lot of good things, I had a heck of a good time as a youngster. 

Riess: About the fights, were your parents disturbed? They thought maybe it was time to move, or 
did they take it in stride, too? 

Miller: I don t know if they ever knew about it. 

More on Parents 

Riess: Your surroundings as you grew up, were there particular paintings or books? What kind of 
cultural trappings did you grow up in? 

Miller: I m smiling, because one of the first things I remember was a Scoreboard of the baseball teams. 
It was put over the front window of this notions store where we got cold drinks. The Cubs 
were our big baseball team. 

To more seriously answer your question, we didn t have much more than that in our home. We 
had some classic pictures. I can t remember the name. A young woman draped around a 
column, a setting sun around a pool of water, or something. By a field or a church or 


something. That was about the extent of it. My parents were interested in my learning music, 
an appreciation of music. I spent something like five years, I think, at piano lessons, and 
played at a few recitals which were not recitals but just appearances in front of people outside 
of my parents. In fact, I even played one time at the Chicago Symphony Hall, or something 
like that. But not up in front on the stage, it must have been in a back broom closet, because it 
was very modest. 

Riess: Did you enjoy it? 

Miller: No, it was terrible, I didn t like it at all. In fact, I gave it up and became interested in the violin. 
I studied the violin for about six years, off and on. I was equally ignorant when I quit that. I 
was just not cut out for it somehow. I don t know if I did it out of obligation to my mother and 
father, or whether I was bullheaded or what I was. Anyway, I gave that up and today I m 
musically illiterate. 

Riess: Did your family read a lot? 

Miller: No, not really. Conversation was an important part of our lives, and they were well informed 
politically and socially. My folks had to entertain quite a bit. 

Riess: Did they entertain the Greeks and the Polish neighbors, or did they find the other Millers? 

Miller: No, they entertained their own ethnic middle-class types. This was during Prohibition, and my 
father being a good doctor, he had access to the best liquor selection in the city. Doctors could 
sign prescriptions to get the booze, alcohol, and we had a great collection of bottled alcohol. I 
do remember one time, my father had this four gallon tin container of alcohol, and at a party he 
shared this with other people so they could take their containers of it home, as well. 

My mother was very concerned with the proper use of language. She took some sort of study 
courses about grammar. 


Riess: You were a little more fortunate during the Depression, you said? 

Miller: During the Depression, on Thanksgiving as well as Christmas, we would make up baskets of 
food, and we would go from house to house. She knew where they were needed, we d leave 
the food at the door with them. She was also active as a club woman, the Illinois Women s 
Athletic Association. They would have tag days where she would bring home these tags, and 
I would spend hours at the table putting the strings onto the tags and making up these different 
kits so they could be given to different people to go out on the street and receive donations. 
This money was then turned in to take care of crippled children or children of some sort. She 
was very active in that regard. 

She never went back to nursing at all. She claimed that after I was born it triggered something 
metabolically in her make-up, so she began to put on some weight. She wasn t really 
overweight, she just was overweight, but not very much. But she didn t have the desire to go 
back, and my father and she began to have problems. She felt that my father spent his day 
with women, and he would come home at night exhausted. She felt that he was not being as 


good a husband as he might be. She was a very jealous person, and that destroyed her until the 
end of her days. 

When I was in high school she began to drink quite a bit. It got to the point of her hiding the 
bottles and my father trying to find them. It was a great stress, and stress that tore our family 
apart to a degree. Not tore apart but created a division in the family. I would be defending my 
mother, and my brother would be attacking her, and he was defending his father. So we had 
that kind of a problem going on. She was very good to me at all times. The drinking was 
never a concern to me because I was in high school and then off to college so I was out of the 
picture. I didn t suffer the results of it to the degree I might. But it was not good. 

Riess: Your brother was. 

Miller: four years older. That age difference when you re young, he could have been an adult. We 
never were close. In other words, when I left grammar school to go to high school, he left high 
school to go to college. We didn t share in things like that. He was jealous of me in many 
ways. He felt I was given favors by my mother that he never enjoyed. It was foolish because 
he consciously went out of his way, I think, to cause problems. I could see him walking into 
problems. Because of him I learned a great deal. I knew how to avoid those things. I would 
do the same things but just avoid the problems. I learned a great deal from him beside the fact 
that we were fighting each other all the time. 

Riess: What did he become, or do? 

Miller: The war came along and he joined the navy, as I did. He became a training officer, a gunnery 
training officer in the navy, aboard different ships. After that, he became a salesman in 
Chicago, I think he sold classified advertising for the Chicago Tribune. He became very good 
at it, he was a fantastic salesman. When he was in high school and I was in grammar school, I 
remember going to the Walgreen drug store. Somehow the two of us were together, that s most 
unusual. We were having a malted milk. A milk shake cost about a dime, and a malted milk 
fifteen cents, so malted milk was something special. 

Well, before I had more than two sips of this malted milk he d found some way to tell me how 
bad this malted milk was, and all the things that were in it, bugs and what not. So he would 
end up having my malted milk. He was that nature, he could do it. He was a fantastic 
salesperson. He was very good at selling classified ads, and then he went on to work for, I 
believe, John Deere International Harvester in the Argentine. He was married at that time, and 
he and his wife were there. He sold heavy farm equipment, did a good job at it, and he began 
to drink too much. Whether that was the reason or not, I don t know. No, I think he became 
ill, so he couldn t function. He came back to the states, Chicago, and found that he had cancer 
of his brain, I think, it was a rough go. He was a heavy smoker. He died, and then shortly after 
that his wife also had lung cancer. Evidently this cancer of the brain was related to lung 
cancer, it traveled through the body. 

Riess: That s a very sad bunch of stuff. 
Miller: Yes, that was unfortunate. 
Riess: Did your parents stick it out together? 


Miller: They stuck it out together. My mother had, over the years, developed an abdominal problem, 
a hernia in the stomach where it would capture food and so it kind of poisoned the system. 
She suffered that. 

After about the mid- 60s my father retired, and they moved to a small town in Missouri, 
Willow Springs. He wanted a place which wasn t too great a difference in climate from 
Chicago, as well as he didn t want it to be like Florida, so he found someplace halfway 

My father was quite successful in Chicago. He became a well-recognized surgeon, and he was 
a member of the American College of Surgeons. People would come to see him operate. He 
was very good. He was ambidextrous. Not only with a scalpel, but he also played golf 
ambidextrously. He tried to get me interested in medicine. I would be in the operating room, 
overdresseda little boy, to be properly dressed, had to be wearing a blue serge suit, and that 
meant that here I am, under the gown, wearing my coat of blue serge and watching my father 
doing a Caesarian section. 

Riess: That s a bloody business. 

Miller: I think it s better to let your kids watch TV. I remember the blood starting to run down the side 
of the table, and then finally down my father s leg, and then finally onto the floor. It s a bloody 
mess, you know. The next thing I remember, I can still hear my head hit the tile. I passed out 
a couple of different times, determined to enter the medical world. 

Riess: I wondered whether that career had appealed to you. That introduction sounds like it was 

Miller: I don t know if that was it so much. At the dinner table, the conversation was always medical. 
My mother and father could talk as equals about cases that he brought home and talked about. 
That could very well have excited another youngster to want to go on, but I didn t I don t 
think it was the operating, really. 

I adored my father, and he was a very loving man. He taught me fishing, hunting. The last 
timeJoan and I were driving back to Washington D.C., I was going to work for the National 
Park Service, and we stopped at Willow Springs, Joan and I and our youngest boy, Peter. My 
mother had been having a rough go, and the night before we left my mother, who was 
bedridden, she called me in and said, "I want to speak to you, Wayne." I took Peter with me, 
and my mother told me what a nice son I was and how she enjoyed me and was very proud of 
me, and she wasn t going to see me again. The next morning we left, and she was able to get 
up and use the lavatory and all, so she was mobile. We went on to Washington D.C. and two 
days later she died. 

Riess: And your father had died before? 

Miller: No, my father was alive. About three years later he remarried at the age of eighty-two, and he 
remained living there until he died. He died during deer hunting season in a snow storm while 
sitting on a tree stump. Evidently he had a heart attack, and he rolled over into the snow. 

First Camera. First Photography Job 

Miller: We ve gotten off of photography a bit. 

Riess: No, I wanted that story. Anybody who would want to know about you would want to know 
about your family, about the definition of family. 

Your choice of college was University of Illinois. 

Miller: Yes. I graduated from high school, Lakeview High School in Chicago, and went down to 

Champagne-Urbana, which is south of Chicago about 140 miles. I went down there, and my 
father drove me down. On the way down, he said, "Wayne, I d like to give you a gift." He 
said, "What would you prefer, one of those new electric Schick razors or this $12.50 Argus 

That was my first camera, really. This was the first Argus camera and the first Schick razor 
that came out. Both of them were really new, I believe, in being introduced to the trade. 
Obviously, I wasn t very interested in whiskers at that point in time, so it was easy for me to 
opt for the camera. 

Riess: Were there camera classes in high school? 

Miller: No, not during the Depression. 

Riess: Or high school newspaper photographs or anything like that? 

Miller: No. And I was manager of the athletic teams. 

Riess: So you had your camera for that? 

Miller: I began it as a hobby at that time. I d made some pictures earlier than that in Lincoln Park in 
Chicago. I had some kind of a camera there. Before that time, I made a few pictures of 
squirrels and the zoo, that was about the extent of it. No, I also made some pictures of some 
friends of mine, we were playing golf in high school. We went to a local golf course. 

Riess: Where would the film be developed? 
Miller: The local drugstore. 

So I did make some pictures before the Argus camera came along. Anyway, in college it was 
a hobby, fooling around with it, and I had no great desire to make photographs. 

Riess: Did you do your own developing then? Was it possible to do so? 

Miller: When I was a sophomore in college I became aware that the photographer who did the daily 
newspaper, the university newspaper, and the yearbook, he was leaving, graduating. So I went 
down and applied for the job. I didn t know a thing about it. Funny! They said, "You know 
how to use a Speed Graphic?" "Of course, I know how to use a Speed Graphic." "Flash?" 


Sure, knew how to do that. So they said, "Come back in September, we ll expect you back, 
and you can get to work." 

So I came back in September and he pointed at this closet, and I opened it up and God, there 
was an awful lot of stuff in there! [laughter] I took it all back to my fraternity house, and they 
said, "Tonight we re having a freshman welcome," in the auditorium or arena or whatever it 
was, where they introduce freshmen to the things that are taking place in the university. "We d 
like to have some pictures for the yearbook." 

I was under a little pressure there, so I got this stuff out and laid it on my desk. I looked at this 
Speed Graphic, which is one that folds up, the classic 4"x5" Speed Graphic news camera. I 
couldn t figure out how to unfold it, couldn t figure out how to open it up. I looked at it and 
looked at it. 

Well, it was set up that this University of Illinois newspaper had an arrangement with a photo 
finisher who had a shop next door to this building that the newspaper was in for developing 
this material and all. I took the camera down, I put it on the counter and said, "Show me how 
to operate this thing. First thing, show me how to open it." It was covered in a black leather 
skin, and you pressed through the skin to hit this hidden button, and then the front drops down. 
Then he showed me how to pull it out, and how to do all these things. I had a fast hour, hour- 
and-a-half lesson. 

That was my beginning as a professional photographer. I got paid $200 a year, school year. I 
went to the freshmen welcome, made a lot of pictures. I don t remember if any one of them 
came out. 

Riess : What kind of film? 

Miller: Holders, side holders. 

Riess: Film pack? 

Miller: May have been a film pack, but I also think it might have been cut film holders. 

Riess: It s hard to take a lot of pictures fast doing that, isn t it? 

Miller: You don t have to work very fast, but you do it very carefully, [laughter] It didn t make any 
difference, I don t think, that night. I don t know if any of them ever came out or not. That was 
my beginning for the yearbook work, and I continued doing that for two years. I was the 
official photographer. I learned fast, on that sort of thing. 

Equipment Details 

Miller: I built a darkroom in the basement of my fraternity house without them knowing about it. In 
the basement was the entrance to our chapter room, considered to be very secret. The door 
opened up, and you walked into the chapter room after you picked up your robe. Behind that 
door there was some space, and there was very poor illumination down there, so nobody ever 


knew what was behind that door. On my own, during the Christmas holiday period, I built a 
darkroom behind that door. 

Riess: And you were able to buy an enlarger? 
Miller: Yes, the works. 
Riess: Did you buy it on your own or did the school pay for it? 

Miller: No, the school did not provide that. I bought the enlarger from stamps. I used to be a stamp 
collector as a youngster. I had these stamps, and I sold some of the stamps and bought a used 

Riess: From a distributor, or a shop? 

Miller: I don t know where. 

Riess: What was it? Do you know? 

Miller: An Elwood Enlarger. 

Riess: Was this a wet dark room? 

Miller: Well, I carried a bucket of water in, yes. [laughter] Also then I began to not only make 

pictures for the yearbook and daily newspaper, but I began to take pictures of other events. 
Like I would go into a sorority house and photograph groups, and every face wanted a print, so 
I sold that. I had a going business. By the time I left, I was making good money. Not good 
money, you know, it was probably $50 a month. That was a lot of money then. 

Riess: It was by word of mouth? 

Miller: Or I d go around, I d huckster. I spent more time on photography. I would spend probably one 
or two nights a week all night long working in the darkroom, plus going to school. As a result, 
I was less than an adequate student. I was no good at all. 

I was in the School of Commerce. My father felt that it would be good if I was in a profession, 
something of "stature." This meant being a doctor, a lawyer, or a banker, or something of that 
nature. I didn t know what I wanted to do in college. I didn t want to go to engineering school. 
Chemistry and that sort of thing was a little beyond my ken. So I opted to go to Commerce. I 
should have been in Liberal Arts; it is where I should have been in hindsight. My last years in 
school I suffered because of my photography and energy level. I got through all right but. 

Riess: What do you mean you suffered? 
Miller: My grades suffered. 
Riess: I m interested in how you set up your darkroom. 

Miller: All you need running water for is washing the stuff. Once you mix your chemicals you don t 
need anything else. In fact, Harry Callahan who I described earlier, in 47, 48, 49, someplace 


in there, he didn t have a wet darkroom. He carried his water into his darkroom, which was an 
area curtained off the end of his loft. Only when you need to wash the chemicals out of the 
paper or the film do you need running water. 

Riess: How about drying prints flat? 

Miller: You have blotters you can use, or you just don t dry them flat. Put them down, let them curl 
up, and then you just straighten them out after they re dry. 

Riess: How about the kinds of papers that were available? 

Miller: Oh, fine papers were available. In fact, many of us today feel that the papers were better then 
than anything we have now, for some reason or other, I don t know why. I m sure Ansel 
Adams could tell us why. We had fine papers then, no strain. 

Riess: Was it an expensive hobby then? Was it an expensive vocation? 

Miller: No, I don t think so. I was never aware of that. It s a lot more expensive today, I think. 
Proportionally, I think it s more expensive today than it was then. 

Riess: Wayne, if you were thinking of yourself as a photographer, did you start looking around at art 
or other photography? For instance, when did you first go to the Chicago Art Institute? 

Miller: That s a good question, it may have been last year, [laughter] I visited it during my high 
school years, but that s about it. I had never attended it or spent time studying it. 

Riess: I m interested in your background in the visual, in seeing how other people see things. 

Miller: I looked at photographic books, but I was not interested in design. I was interested in pictures, 
how well they captured emotions. I didn t consciously think of that then, I don t think, but 
those were the pictures I was attracted to. Photographically, I didn t spend much time thinking 
about design or composition. I ignored that. 


Miller: I remember during World War II, we had us a fine cartoonist attached to Steichen s USN unit, 
Bob Osborn. He was doing cartoons to make navy flight students aware of the need for safety 
precautions. After the war I talked to Bob about what I should do to learn more about 
photography and composition. He said, "Don t pay attention to anybody. Just do your own 
thing and follow your personal drives." That didn t change me too much because I would have 
done that anyway, but it gave me confidence that may be a way to go. So, I just put it out of 
my mind from then on. 

I don t know about this composition thing, somehow it was innate, I think, it just worked. In 
order for a picture to be as meaningful as I wanted it to be it had to be well composed. It s not 
unrelated to housekeeping. You know when the things look right. If they look right then it s 
well composed. 

Art Center School of Photography 

Riess: When would you say you were identifying yourself as a photographer? 

Miller: I began to see that this waswell, my senior year, in 1940, just before my University of Illinois 
graduation, I got interested in photography more directly through the photographer who was 
working full-time for the Urbana, Illinois newspaper. We struck up a relationship, and he 
wanted to go to the Art Center School in Los Angeles for a year to learn something more there 
and I got interested in that as well. The two of us decided to go together. His name was Keith 

I told my father about this, it damn near broke his heart. He said, "Wayne, do you mean to say 
that you want to be a photographer? Do you mean that you ll be sitting there, outside the door, 
waiting to do a portrait, or a wedding photograph? Is that the kind of life you want to lead?" I 
said, "I don t know. I d just like to go to this photography school for a year and learn more than 
I know now." 

Riess: His thought you d have a shop and photograph brides. 

Miller: Yes, that was his concept. He didn t have any other references. Life magazine had just barely 
come out. So that wasn t around. 

Riess: How about the Farm Security photographs? They were there, somewhere. 

Miller: They were around, and I was certainly impressed by those. But I didn t see them during those 

Riess: Would you have seen Walker Evans work? 

Miller: I saw those when I got to the Art Center School, I think. That was 1940. In fact, while I was 
there I remember a fellow named Weston came by. He was on a swing, he was working on a 
Guggenheim, doing pictures of the desert. 

Riess: So you had to get out of Chicago, you had to get to California, almost, to get photography. 
Miller: Yes. 

As I hear my words, I sound like a real primitive, of some sort. I was impressed, like we all 
are, with a fine photograph. I think I wanted to achieve, rather than create good photographs. 
I wanted to achieve being a comfortable, professional photographer. I wasn t thinking about 
great photographs. I guess I was thinking about it like a world to explore. Also, it was a lot of 
fun. God, it was a lot of fun! I just enjoyed it so much. To take an unexposed sheet of film 
and go out and put something on it that had never been seen before, that to me was a real 
challenge-real magic. 

For example-I guess it is probably my personality hang-ups, I m sure -when I was there at the 
Art Center School we were given assignments. First, to learn how to develop film and how to 
understand what the film is capable of, as far as gradations and what not. Then we had 


assignments to go out and make photographs. Portraits, landscapes, and other things. Finally 
we had an assignment to do a two-headed portrait, one with two people in it. 

We would develop and print these assignments, and mount the 8"xlO" on the face of a 
14"xl7" card. We had a form that was pasted on the back that said what film we used, how we 
developed it, how we printed the print. We d go to the lecture room and leave our offerings, 
two or three, however many submissions we wanted to offer for criticism, for a critique. We d 
pile them on a table up in front and then we d sit down in the audience, and helpers would take 
our prints and put them on racks for critiquing. 

This particular assignment, the two-headed portrait, a fellow student, Glenn Miller, he and I 
palled around together. Here we were with our cameras, poking around. We ended up at the 
train station in Los Angeles where they had one of these booths, these self-portrait booths 
where you put in a dime or a quarter. We felt pretty gay, so we got into this booth nose to nose, 
face to face, a two-headed profile. We take the picture, and out it comes with a little silver 
metal frame on it. I took this double-headed portrait and I mounted it on my 14"xl7" 
assignment card. 

I should tell you that the man who was critiquing this assignment was a very gentle nice man, 
a teacher, an established photographer, who was very proud of his portrait work. He would 
submit work to different judgings all over the country. Every time they would judge him best 
of show or something. Actually, in some of these cases, the back of the mount was more 
important than the front. Anyway, that s an aside. He was the one who was going to be 

So for this assignment I had mounted this double-headed portrait on the 14"xl7" card and on 
the back I put a Chinese laundry ticket, a beer label, a bus token, the whole enchilada. In fact, 
I think I still may have it. 

The time comes, I put mine in early, nobody was around, and I move on back to sit in the back 
of the room. 

Riess: Unsigned? 

Miller: No, they re all signed. We were required to put our name on the back on the label detailing the 
camera, film, development and print paper. But I don t think I left a signature on this one. 

Anyway, the Art Center School was created by a man by the name of Adams who had been in 
the advertising business. He felt that there was a need for professionally trained 
photographers, designers, artists, and all, to give a degree of excellence to the advertising field. 
He was a well- known guy, and well respected. Tink Adams. 

The helpers start putting our mounts up, and all of a sudden they come to this one. They called 
some others over to look at it. [laughter] Then there was a little bit of quiet and somebody 
leaves the room. No more pictures being put up. Eventually in comes Tink Adams, the boss. 
He looks at it, and he says, "Whose submission is this?" Everything was very quiet. Of course 
the kids in the lab knew, they had been watching me put this thing together, and they all turned 
and looked at me. 


I became very honest, and I put my hand up. Then he talked to his assistant beside him, and 
that person left. God, ten or fifteen minutes went by. Finally this person comes back and 
hands a paper to him, and Tink Adams asks me to come up, and he awarded me this certificate 
of demerit! [laughter] 

Riess: With some humor? 
Miller: Not too much. 

He called me in his office later and said he didn t feel I had the right spirit for this school. 
Because when I came to this school, one of the requirements was that you had to have a view 
camera in order to do these different exercises. This was a nine month course, a regular two 
semester deal, because they had all the adjustments. Well, I couldn t afford that, I still had my 
Speed Graphic. Not the one from school, I had another one. I was using the Speed Graphic. 
Well, that was symptomatic. I wasn t really joining the spirit of the school. He suggested that I 
drop out, because he didn t feel I could make it as a photographer. I think he was right. I could 
not have made it in his world. 

Riess: In the advertising world that he was training people for. 

Miller: Yes. 

Anyway, that s my Art Center School story. 

Riess: Would there have been any places closer to home for a good education in photography? 

Miller: Not that I knew of, this was the outstanding one in the country, the one that people referred to. 

Riess: How did you like Los Angeles? 

Miller: I loved it, loved it. 

Riess: What did you look at while you there? 

Miller: Let me tell you what I looked at. This is not directly related, but it s related to the human 
interest aspect. I would see these beautiful young women, girls, driving in convertible 
automobiles as passengers, with the old men as drivers, with the top down. I thought to 
myself, what the hell do these young women have in mind driving around with men that were 
probably thirty, thirty-five years old, you know? I m joking here about that. 

In Los Angeles, what did I enjoy? You re doing your best to get me back into the museums 
and something of measurable quality, and I can t help you on that. 

Riess: I wasn t, actually. The smell of it, the look of it, the feel of the freedom. It must have been 

Miller: Yes, it was. I lived in a rooming house which was a block diagonal from the school. To get 
there I had to go through a park, West Lake Park. On the benches were some retirees and 
drifters. I had to walk through there, and it was beautiful. A little water, geese floating 
around, and ducks and trees, I just loved it. It was a nice place, then. 


I remember showing up to school one morning and telling these fellows that I had stopped in 
the park and talked to this awfully nice guy. He was so nice that he suggested that we take a 
trip and go to Mexico, he d pay all the expenses. I had no idea about homosexuality. It just 
cracked up the group, they thought how naive I was. Well, I was terribly naive about these 
things. I still am. 

We enjoyed going to the ocean. I learned to body surf and to enjoy so much. God, we had a 
marvelous time. Some fine photographers were in this class. I m trying to remember some of 
their names. I could dig them up, I guess. 

Riess: You said that Weston came through? 

Miller: Weston came through and gave a talk to the group and he impressed all of us. Will Connell, a 
top professional, was one of the teachers there, an awful nice man. I kept in touch with him 
after the war, as well. I remember a fellow named Tom Binford was a student there and he did 
beautiful work, and he went on to become a very successful photographer. Toward the end of 
the war he became attached to the Steichen group as a photographer. 

At this point in time, towards the end of the spring of 1941, we all knew the war was coming 
on. People were beginning to shuffle around to figure out how they could relate to, or avoid, 
this war. I went back to Chicago, kind of treading water, waiting for war to be declared. 

Riess: When you look back at the Art Center School, what did you learn? 

Miller: I learned some discipline. I m talking about the limitations of the technical aspects of 

photography and the opportunities there. I m indebted to them for knowing how to make a 
good print, and there must be something else, I m sure. I learned that the opportunities and 
capabilities of photography are, practically speaking, unlimited, as to what you can do with it. 
That was exciting to know, that there s more out there than just a film pack, or cut film, or a 
roll of film. There s lighting, there s composition, there s other things that I hadn t really 
focused on. In hindsight I was a fool. I didn t take advantage of what I could have learned. I 
was naive and arrogant. 

Riess: Were they doing any color work at the Art Center School? 

Miller: Not in this beginning year. They were doing some in advanced courses. At that time I think 
they had two or three year courses. It was quite young, I think the school started in about 36 
or 37; it hadn t gotten its feet and facilities developed to be able to take on color photography. 

Riess: You said that when you think back you really would have been better off with a liberal arts 

education. Do you feel that along the way you ve gotten one? Did you get a little art history, a 
little this and that? 

Miller: Oh, I bought some books and read them. I tried to "improve" myself. I learned a lot from that, 
I think, because I realized that historically we ve all been struggling after the same kinds of 
elusive targets all these times, trying to express ourselves in our own ways. Also, I became 
aware that much of these expressions were repetitive, redundant, and opportunistic. It took a 
lot of effort to break away from the tried and true approaches to things. 


A photographer has to be a gambler, because you can t go back with your brush afterwards and 
retouch something, or go back and redo that paragraph. Not only a gambler, you have to be a 
plunger, you have to jump in and take advantage of that moment. It s a little different kind of a 
personality, I think, at least in the kind of photography I was interested in. It s not like being in 
the studio where you can go back and reshoot or something, or take the time before you make 
this exposure that everything is right. Much of my work has been grab shooting. When it 
happens, I have to be there. Like during the war, if I was facing the wrong direction I missed 
the picture. 

Riess: You have to train yourself to be there. 

Miller: That s right. You spend an awful lot of time just being there, waiting and waiting. Maybe 

something happens, maybe it doesn t. It opened my eyes to the possibilities, it showed me the 
pantry, here are the ingredients and you can make your own cake. 

Riess: The Carder-Bresson expression, the "decisive moment," would that be something you would 
have thought about? 

Miller: Oh, his book didn t exist then [The Decisive Moment, Simon and Schuster, 1952]. In fact, my 
understanding is that after he had put his book together somebody came up with the idea of 
"the decisive moment" and he reluctantly agreed to it. I don t know if that s true or not. But 
yes, you have to be ready for it. Some scientists say that a scientist has to be trained so that 
when something inadvertent happens he s able to discover it. These things work together. 

Henri s really heavy on composition. I remember being at more than one meeting with him at 
Magnum Photos, and he d be there with his fingers making little triangles, trying to compose, 
looking at various pictures. It was terribly important to him; that composition and that 
particular picture I think was in his mind, so that when it happened, he was able to photograph 
it. I wouldn t have been capable of making that structure to have done that, I don t think. 
Maybe I would have. His pictures are exceptionally well composed. 




[Interview 2: August 8, 2001]## 

The War and the Naval Photographic Unit 

Miller: The Art Center School group, we knew that war was ahead of us. Much of the conversation at 
that time was about how to get out of the war. I remember one of the students wanting to get 
married and get his wife pregnant so that would get him a deferment. That was his thought 
about getting out of the war. 

Riess: What was your stand on the war? 

Miller: I didn t question it. I accepted the fact that we had to go to war to protect our values. There 
wasn t any question in my mind about going into the war. But I didn t want to go in as an 
enlisted man and just be handled willy-nilly in the service. I wanted to control my future to 
the degree I could, so I applied for a commission in the navy. 

I used some political pull. My father had a contact in Chicago who had a contact, and so forth, 
the way these things work. So I applied for a commission and found that I couldn t pass the 
physical. They found that I had a damaged right eye, evidently some tissue was damaged 
early on in my life and it had to be corrected. I had to struggle to find ways to overcome that. 
The first thing I did was start eating carrots and everything else I could do to improve the 
quality of that eye, but it wasn t improvable. I worried about that a great deal, about how I 
could possibly pass the eye test. I finally found that I couldn t do anything about it, so I 
applied for a waiver for the eye. Finally that was approved, and it enabled me to receive a 

Riess: Had you been wearing glasses? 

Miller: Oh, yes, ever since I was fifteen years old, I think. The eye hasn t appreciably changed much 
since then. 

Riess: You were an ensign in the Bureau of Aeronautics in December 1941. And then you joined the 
navy in January of 1942? 

Miller: This is a paper thing. These dates are confusing because the military said I entered in active 
service on January 31,1 942. I have another document that states that my commission dates as 
of mid-December in 41. I don t know what date to use. Time of active service is, I suppose, a 
more realistic one, January 42. 

Riess: Then you move eventually to the photo unit, in fact very soon. 


Miller: This is the Bureau of Aeronautics, U.S. Navy. The Bureau of Aeronautics had a training 
division. That s where Steichen was placed; his unit was placed in the training division. I 
think that was probably a political move to make it possible, to provide an excuse for his being 
there, rather than being in propaganda, or public relations, or something of than nature. The 
training division consisted of two branches. One was writers, and the other was our unit, 
photography. The writers was a large unit, maybe thirty or forty or so men, all top writers. I 
remember one fellow, Bob Lewis, he was a writer for The New Yorker. And other people were 
top people from different publications of that time. A marvelous group of people right next 
door to us. 

Then there was our group, a much smaller office. There was Steichen, and a yeoman, and 
that s about it. Also Bob Osbom, a cartoonist who did training posters for the young pilots in 
training. Steichen reported in about May of that year. I saw him in February of that year. 
Between February and May when he showed up, I was sitting there alone, treading water until 
he got down there. 

Actually, I took it upon myself to build a camera case, which I think is kind of funny. This was 
for a 4"x5" Speed Graphic, and when all the accessories were put in it was too heavy to carry. 
I hadn t realized maybe we d be using cameras other than that. The navy provided us with 
Speed Graphics, but they didn t provide us with anything other than that. Later on, most all of 
us were using Rolleiflexes. Only towards the end of the war were some of us using 35mm. 

Riess: You already knew that you would be doing photographic work? If you were assigned to 
Steichen s unit, you knew? 

Miller: No, I was assigned to administration, the Bureau of Aeronautics. I was already in the navy, 
and then I learned of Steichen coming in May and I got transferred out of that. In fact, I was in 
charge of the Bureau of Aeronautic Secrets, a fascinating experience. I was given a desk in 
this office, which had a very large safe in it. The safe had its door open, and papers were 
strewn all around. You could see that they hadn t been organized. There wasn t any room in 
the safe for them. I was told to organize those papers and distribute them to people who they 
should be seen by. [laughter] 

I knew nothing about aeronautics, I knew nothing about navy secrets. In fact, I didn t go 
through any training. Usually you go ninety days, you have some sort of basic training, but I 
didn t have any of that. So I gathered these things up and I started circulating them, Number 1 , 
Number 2, Number 3, etc. I distributed those for about that month or so, in fact probably 
longer, waiting for Steichen to show up. It was fascinating. I got to know a lot of the people in 
the navy. At that time the navy-there seemed to be little organization, much activity but the 
structure hadn t yet gelled to be a smooth running machine. So it was very informal, and it was 

Riess: Was there an undercurrent of competitiveness with the army? 

Miller: What we were involved with in hindsight, we were in competition with the Army Air Force. 
They had an Army Air Force; that was the name of their aviation unit. We were competing for 
personnel. Not only pilots but crewmen to be flying on these planes. We did big posters. In 
fact in 1943 I remember the figure that something like 80 percent of all the material released 
by navy public relations was produced by the five of us in Steichen s unit. 


Riess: Including Osborn? 

Miller: No, I m just talking about photographers. That s no reflection on the other photographers in 
the navy, because by regulation they were restricted to doing their specific jobs. They weren t 
involved in producing materials that could be used for public relations. 

Our assignment was to photograph the navy at war. Steichen told us to focus on the enlisted 
man, as he would be the one that would win the war. We were allowed to photograph anything 
in the navy, as we saw fit. In fact, the only directions we received were to be sure when you 
come back you have some pictures that will please the navy brass. Other than that, we had no 
constraints. Our orders said, "Proceed where you deem necessary and upon completion, 
return." These kind of orders were unheard of. 

We also had air priority in there, and also the orders were written by the Chief of Naval 
Operations, the top dog in the navy department. Our material would be returned to the Chief 
of Naval Operations and not be censored at any place down the line. We could photograph 
anything and remain on an assignment as long as we felt it was productive. At the end of that 
time, we were to either self-determine another assignment or come back to Washington. 

Riess: That s remarkable. 
Miller: It was remarkable. 
Riess: Did Steichen look at everything first before it went to the Chief of Naval Operations? 

Miller: I have no knowledge of that. It went through him, and it came back to Steichen. He would 
ship it over to our lab. We had built a lab in Washington D.C., not too far down the street from 
a lab that oh my goodness, who was the Farm Security Administration photographer? 

Riess: Roy Stryker? 

Miller: Yes. Stryker had his lab a little way down the street. In fact we looked at his lab with a 

possibility of taking that over. Steichen and I went and visited that lab early on, and for some 
reason or other we decided against that. We found a space and built a lab from scratch. 

Riess: The photographers were involved in that phase of building the lab and all that? 

Miller: That s right, and Steichen had the top people running that lab. A fellow from Conde Nast, a 
top color man, he was the one that took care of our color department. Another fellow who 
became quite prominent in the field of photography, Marty Forscher, a camera repairman, he 
took care of our camera supplies, and camera repair. 

Fascinating story about Marty. He was approached to do this, and he let people believe that he 
knew everything about it. Later, as he told me, he said, "I decided that I really had to know 
what this is all about, I didn t know anything about it." So he took two Rolleiflexes apart, laid 
the materials out, and I think he told me that he even mixed the materials up. Then he 
blindfolded himself and reassembled the cameras. He worked on that until he could do that. 
He was a whiz at it. 


Riess: Was there censorship? That s not the word. But the selection of all this material that came 
back, who did it and what happened to the rest of it? 

Miller: I believe that Steichen did the editing. He liked that aspect of the unit s work. It was sent to 
the lab and they made the prints, 8"xlO" prints, glossies, mounted them on a card with the 
caption material, and it went into our major files together with extra prints. I don t know, they 
must have gone to public relations as well. 

In fact, I think I mentioned that I got a telegram from Gene Smith talking about some 
photographs I had made in Naples of children there. I was waiting for the invasion of southern 
France. While I was there I went ashore to NaplesI was on a carrier I went ashore, and 
while I was there I made some photographs of these children. Evidently that material was sent 
back to Washington, and I got this telegram from Gene saying, "They are great photographs 
and I knew you had made them. Congratulations." 

Any photographs released by the navy only said, "U.S. Navy photograph," no names on them, 
so that was pretty exciting for me, that he picked up that they were mine. Also, the point is 
that they got to Life magazine, and that must have been a regular system, that certain 
photographs the navy would ship out for public use. 

Riess: That s interesting, how these things got edited and distributed. 

Miller: I think they were edited by Steichen. He would periodically go through the lab and check the 
quality of the prints. He was a stickler for perfection in the making of prints. Looking at my 
prints that I ve taken out of the files that I hadn t seen until later after the war, I m amazed at the 
fine quality of them. They are all consistent, and they re beautifully done. 

Riess: You ve said elsewhere, as you were implying earlier, that the mission was to create 

photographs that would appeal to younger men, that would publicize naval aviation activities 
to compete with the U.S. Army Air Force. You had to compete with them for good talent for 
the navy. Are you competing in an indirect way or were they used in recruitment offices or 

Miller: I don t know how they were used. I think they were meant to create the background music, so 
that a hard sell would be heard. Posters of all kinds were made. 

First Meeting Steichen 

Riess: Tell me about meeting Steichen the first time. 

Miller: I was in the navy. I was circulating aeronautic secrets, and I had been talking with a woman 
there who had been a yeomanette in World War I named Joy B. Hancock, a charming, pretty 
woman. I had gotten to know her and shown her some of my photographs from the Art Center 
School. I had taken them into the office one day and she said, "Do you mind if I show these to 
Captain Radford, he might be interested in seeing them." So I said, "No, that would be fine." 
She went upstairs to Captain Radford s office, and within minutes the phone rang and she said, 
"Captain Radford would like to speak to you." 


I went upstairs, met him, and he said that a man by the name of "Stooben" or "Stabben" or 
something of that nature was coming in to set up a special photographic unit, "and he might 
have use or need for a person like you." He said, "If you happen to be going to New York in 
the near future, you might drop in and see him. He s now working on an exhibit for the 
Museum of Modem Art, and so that s why he s in New York." I said, "I just happen to be 
going up there this weekend for a wedding," which was an out and out lie, because I didn t 
know anybody in New York, let alone somebody having a wedding. 

I went up to New York on a Monday, something like that, and met Steichen in Tom Maloney s 
office. Tom Maloney was a publisher of U.S. Camera Magazine and Annual. Steichen was 
helping Tom put out his annual, making picture selections for his annual. He had developed a 
very close relationship with Tom and considered him part of his family, a close member of his 
family. Tom, incidentally, had gone to the Naval Academy, and I think it was in his senior year 
that he had to leave because it was discovered that he was married. That was unfortunate, but 
Tom remained a strong supporter of the navy. Anyway, I met with Steichen and Tom, this was 
the first time I d met either of them, and I showed them my photographs. I was very proud to 
show them my photographs, and pleased. Steichen, after a while, said, "Fine, why don t you 
make whatever efforts are necessary to be transferred over to my unit?" 

I said, "Fine," because I knew when he said that that it would be easy, because I knew how the 
operation in Washington went, that it would be a slam dunk in a manner of speaking. That s 
how that worked. I returned to Washington and in effect had to tread water until he showed 
up. I continued with my aeronautic secrets for a while longer, until it became better organized. 
They put a whole crew in there to take care of that, [laughter] 

Riess: Was Steichen s name familiar to you? Did you know about Photo Secession Gallery? 

Miller: I knew nothing about that. I knew the name Steichen, and when Radford mentioned that, why 
chills went up and down my back because I knew who he was referring to when he said 
"Stooben" or "Stabben." It was very exciting. But I didn t know the history of photography 
except casually. I had met some of those people at the Art Center School like Weston, and 
Will Connell, and others of that nature. I d learned about the Look magazine people. I knew 
them, I knew the photojournalism aspect. But the history of photography and the foundations 
of it, I was ignorant of, really. 

Riess: Did Steichen have a German accent? 

Miller: No, he didn t. He was born in Luxembourg, and I think he left when he was three months or 
three years old, so he didn t have a chance to get much of an accent. No, absolutely not. If 
anything, he probably had a Midwest accent, because he was raised in Wisconsin. I guess it 
was in and around Madison. 

Riess: You referred to Gene Smith getting in touch with you about the Naples photographs. Did you 
know Gene Smith? 

Miller: I knew his work, and I had high respect for him. Gene and I were about the same age, had the 
same number of childrenwell, we eventually had the same number of children. But we had 
struggled through the same paths, he just struggled harder and had a lot more talent. 


I don t know if I mentioned that while I was in Washington during those early days, Gene and 
I had lunch. A fine restaurant on Connecticut Avenue. La Salle Dubois I think it was. We 
were having lunch, and he was anxiously waiting, by the minute, to hear from New York City 
as to whether or not he was going to get an assignment from Flying magazine to photograph 
World War II. He kept going back and forth to the phone, and finally he came back and said, 
"I got it." Of course, he spent the rest of the afternoon there, having more drinks, and it was 
quite a nice celebration. I don t know when he began working for Life, but I think many of his 
fine war photographs were done on his Flying magazine assignment. 

Riess: I was reading that after some time with Life he joined the staff of Ziff Davis Publishing 

Miller: That s Flying magazine. 


Riess: assigned to aircraft carriers and so on and he rejoined Life in about 1944, 1945. 

Miller: So you see he had a long period with Ziff Davis. Much of his war things were Ziff Davis, not 

Riess: He was invited to apply for Steichen s unit but was disqualified several times on the physical. 
He had impaired hearing, and also insufficient college education. Is that news to you that he 
was turned down for Steichen s group? 

Miller: I learned about that late in the war. But the idea of a college education might very well have 
been a navy aspect. To have been an officer, you had to have more formal education. That 
might have been how that cropped up. It had nothing to do with Steichen s evaluation or 
appreciation of Gene. He certainly appreciated and wanted Gene. 

Particu ars. Cameras. Caotioning 

Riess: You said a little bit about what the navy was offering you in the way of photographic 
equipment. Did you have a preference for the larger or smaller camera? 

Miller: I had never used that small a camera. They only offered us 4"x5" Speed Graphics. The people 
coming in, like Horace Bristol and Fenno Jacobs [former plumber and photographer for 
National Geographic], they had been using Rolleiflexes. 4 I think they probably influenced the 
early decision to go to Rolleiflexes, because Charlie Kerlee, who was a commercial 
photographer from Seattle, used larger cameras. So he wouldn t have been pushing 
necessarily for the Rollei. In fact I know he used a 4"x5" Graphlex quite a bit. He liked larger 

Riess: What did you end up using mostly, though? 

4.1 should mention Paul Dorsey and Nils Jorgenson among the guys who were the navy combat 
photography unit. 


Miller: Rolleiflex. One of our problems was supporting our Rolleiflexes, which meant smaller film, 
roll film. The navy didn t have that on its list of available materials. They had the cut film, 
and the film pack. Early on, we would take the navy issued 4"x5" Kodachrome, large 
quantities of it, take it down to the local camera shops, and trade it off for cameras and 120 
film for our Rolleiflexes, which I m sure wouldn t be accepted as a good way of doing 

Riess: Did you keep notes on your exposures? Were you trained to do that? 

Miller: No, that sort of thing, under those conditions, wasn t practical. In order to be meaningful you 
had to be able to see the results of that information that you wrote down. I didn t see the 
results after I gave the film to somebody to ship backusually wrapped in an aerological 
balloon, to keep it protected from moisture. And if I was in a humid climate, which I was most 
often, I d first send the film up in an airplane and reduce the humidity: the higher elevation 
would tend to dehydrate the film. Then I would wrap it in an aerological balloon and ship it 
back to the office. Actually, some of it went back in condoms before I found out that 
aerological balloons were available. 

In Corsica, waiting for the invasion of southern France, I d send up a case of beer with the 
bombers and in the morning it would come back coldjust in time for breakfast! 

Riess: So note-taking on exposure and so on would have been meaningless. But you gave them data 
on where you were? 

Miller: Caption material, yes, as to what the operation was, names, when I could do it to identify it, so 
they had something for caption material. 

Riess: Did you need to get releases? 

Miller: No, we were all working for the same boss. No, that sort of thing didn t show up. On one trip, 
on one carrier, I made an effort to photograph as many individuals as I could, and I had a poop 
sheet that had critical information on it that people could fill out. The idea was that could then 
be used to send back to the local hometown newspaper. That was the only time I was ever 
involved in anything that was a direct P.R. effort, as such. My caption material and all was 
scanty. I can show you what I did, because I know where it happens to be, of going into 
Hiroshima, what I did there. 

Riess: Steichen wanted his photographers "to capture the human thread." How did you know when 
you had just gotten one of these "human threads?" 

Miller: Those theories that Steichen had and the ways he had of expressing it were certainly important 
for me to hear, but I think it may have been more directed to other members of the team. 


Miller: I say that because it may this is pure supposition on my part~it may have encouraged them to 
focus on the individual and not on the inanimate pictures, it might be one of design, or 
something other than human interest. Steichen was concerned with human interest, because he 
believed in the individual and the strength of the individual. Also he knew that would be of 


the most interest to the general public. I think it was certainly a knowing point of view on his 

Riess: He knew he didn t have to tell you because that s what you do? 

Miller: He told me, I heard that. I think it was a blanket statement that he threw out, he didn t dwell on 
that too much with me. Maybe he did, I don t remember it. I do remember receiving a letter 
from him one time when I was complaining of having difficulties in this area. I must have 
mentioned Lisette Model s work. He wrote me a note back that says, "Don t worry about 
Lisette s work, you re doing things more important than that," or something like that. We ll 
take the letter out and look at that. 

Riess: Did you write letters home about that whole experience? 

Miller: No, I don t think so. I m not aware of it. Joan has lots of letters that I wrote home, but I 

imagine that most of the letters were concerned with my missing her and wanting to be with 
her, rather than some running diary of what was happening. 

Riess: There are photographers who kept their running diaries, from the daybooks of Weston to Gene 
Smith, who seems to have been a great commentator on what he was feeling. You ve never felt 
the urge? 

Miller: The navy discouraged that in letters. In fact, letters were always censored before they left the 
area of operations. Things that referred to specifics were deleted and edited out, you know, 
from a security point of view. Whether it was necessary or not is something else. The idea of 
keeping materials that wereI didn t do it, let s put it that way. 

Battle Stations 

Riess: What about your feelings of fear and personal safety? Did you have the young man s 
obliviousness to that? 

Miller: No. We knew we were above dying. That s a poor way of putting it. We just felt that we 

weren t going to be hit, we weren t going to suffer that. As far as being afraid, yes. But it was 
just momentary. Anytime that I was frightened, it was because of thinking of something in the 
future, not at the moment. At the moment I had to be busy taking pictures. So, it would be 
counterproductive for me to be afraid of those conditions. 

I was never afraid under battle conditions. A funny thing happened. On board a carrier, one of 
the two most dangerous periods of time are just before dawn and just before sunset, where 
your ship can be silhouetted against the remaining light. In the shadows, there might be a 
submarine waiting to torpedo you. At all times, the radar plot or the people who were 
electronically monitoring the presence of other foreign ships and planes they were always 
working on that, around the clock when they spotted something that the captain felt was 
harmful, he d sound general quarters. 


General quarters was the sounding of the claxons and the bells and all, alerting everybody to 
go to their battle stations, to close the hatches so that they wouldn t be flooded in case they 
were torpedoed. Of course, I was prepared for this. I always had my things ready. I had my 
camera handy, my cameras handy. I had an army web belt with two pockets in it. Normally 
you would put canteens in them. I had these pockets, I had some aerological balloons so that if 
I took exposed film I could put them in the balloons. If I had to go over the side, they would 
be protected. I had my helmet and life jacket and all. 

I remember this one general quarters in the middle of the night. I didn t have any battle station 
to go to, but I wanted to get up on deck to see what was going to happen, if anything. So, I 
grabbed everything and got up there. I ll never forget what it was like. Here I am standing 
there, camera around my neck. No, I didn t have the camera around my neck, I had about half 
a ream of paper in my hand, no trousers, and no camera, [laughter] My subconscious must 
have really hit the panic button, you know. But there I was hi my "battle station," completely 
unprepared. I remember that as an example of how your mind can not work the way you want 
it to work. That was such a vivid demonstration of that. 

Riess: Did you learn good habits as a photographer from that period? For instance, the idea that you 
would go to bed with your camera loaded. 

Miller: Yes, everything was ready. 

Riess: Are there some other things that stood you in good stead? For instance, photographing fear. 
You said you weren t afraid, but on the other hand, how about these men who are at the battle 
stations. Photographing raw emotion. 

Miller: That s an interesting thing. I made a point of trying to capture that. We were in the Pacific, 
and I was on a gunboat. A gunboat is a small craft. We were to protect the underwater 
demolition swimmers as they were going into the beach. We would fire over the tops of their 
heads to protect them from the enemy from firing on them. 

On the way up to this operation, we were attacked. There were seven of these gunboats, World 
War I minesweepers that had been converted to this other work. Being a minesweeper meant 
that they had wooden hulls, which would not attract the mines. These were pretty early boats. 
They were maybe a hundred feet long. We had a single-barreled 40mm and a bunch of 50 s to 
protect us. Three of us had radar bubbles on a mast sticking above us~that was a mast sticking 
up maybe thirty feet, on top of which was a white bubble containing radar equipment. It was 
maybe two feet across. 

One evening, which is the ideal time for a kamikaze attack what happens is the kamikazes put 
the sun behind them and ride that in so that it makes it difficult for gunners to see them they 
came in, and they took out four of the seven of us. We were all in a line, going up to Linguyan 
Gulf in the Philippines. 

Riess: Four of the seven boats? 

Miller: Four of the seven boats. They hit them and blew them out of the water. We figured out 

afterwards that [our not being hit] was because of our radar bubble. It gave them a false sense 
of target, it was sticking up a little too high. Because they would drop around us, the planes 
would drop around us and miss us. 


During this time, hell, I can t do anything to make a picture like this. I can t photograph the 
damn thing. So I decided I d photograph the faces of these gunners. It s one of those times 
where you re directly face to face with the enemy. He s there, coming toward you, you re 
doing your best to shoot him. I made these faces, I thought that this will say something. Later 
I saw those pictures, and the faces showed nothing. Their faces were absolutely normal, if you 
want to call it that. So, under pressure you re too busy doing your job. 

Riess: Were you armed? 

Miller: No. Well, that s not true. On the gunboat, no. When I flew in planes, yes. Because if we had 
to bail out in the jungle or something like that and had to support ourselves one way or the 
other, yes, I carried a .38 revolver. 

Riess: Were you trained to use it? 
Miller: No. 

Let me tell you another thing about fear. I think this was also on a gunboat. I m having trouble 
remembering the specifics, but somehow or other we were being attacked. I don t think it was 
by kamikazes, it was by actual shells. I ducked behind an apron on the deck to dodge these 
bullets. When I got there, I found somebody who got there before me, but that was all right. 
After the moment had passed, both this man and I realized what had happened. What we had 
dived behind was a little canvas windshield, [laughter] Absolutely no protection whatsoever. 
Anyway, it was strange. Funny things like that happened. 

The Children of Naples 

Riess: Tell me about photographing those children in Naples, that poverty. 

Miller: I went ashore with a bag of my equipment. I had two bags, shoulder bags, one of them had 
shaving equipment, things like that in it. I spent maybe three or four days there. I 
photographed these kids. All kids are just marvelous, the Second Coming ought to look like 
those kids, they were just marvelous, their spirit. 

They were running through the streets. They were dirty, they were less than ill-clad, they were 
in bad shape in many ways. But their spirit was beautiful. That s what I tried to photograph. I 
just roamed the streets and photographed them as I saw them, and sometimes their mothers, 
parents. It was a lovely experience to be that free and to share, in a manner of speaking, their 
world. Because it was a dog-eat-dog thing, where they would fight over a little bit of food, 
you know. Not much, they would usually share it, rather than fight too much. 

Riess: Was that the first time you had been so focused on children? 

Miller: I think, probably, I guess so. I found out after the war that what I photographed was normal for 
Naples whether there was a war on or not. These kids are on the streets, they re just drifting as 
a part of the "normal" life in Naples. So I wasn t photographing something-it wasn t war, war 
had some effect on it, but it didn t cause it. 


Riess: And that was picked up by Life! 

Miller: I don t know if Life used it or not. It was seen by Life, we saw it in the office. I don t know if 
it was used by them. 

Riess: Have you seen the work of Sebastian Salgado? 

Miller: Yes, fantastic work. I just think it s brilliant. He s an exceptional talent and evidently 

developed when he was an adult, not as a young man. He had been trained, I don t know, 
educated as an engineer or something of that nature, or architect? Anyway, he has a charming 
wife, and she also is well educated and has helped him a great deal in kind of a joint effort, 
there. They had an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art here in San Francisco, beautiful 
exhibit there years ago. 

Riess: Do you think that he sees something that s different from what you see? 

Miller: I think he does, yes. He s able to see a bigger picture and deal with it. I don t know, I can t 
describe it, I know that I wish that I could do that sort of thing. I m sure I ve been exposed to 
similar opportunities, but I haven t begun to do what he s done. He s able to pick up a core idea 
and develop it. Not using just a family, but using a whole community, a whole culture. I find 
it just fabulously good, fabulously good. 

Riess: How much do you think it s the formal elements of his composition? 

Miller: I don t know, it s just in his bones somehow to be able to do that. Making photographs like he 
does, like many others of us do, you have to do it very quickly. You can t redo it, you can t 
move this around or that around. You d be interrupting the moment, you d be interrupting the 
happening. It s just a talent, for lack of a better word, that is unique to the individual. I don t 
know how you can. Maybe it can be taught, I don t know. 

Riess: You referred to color work during World War II. Were you doing color work? 

Miller: No, we were using the Rolleiflex, which had a 120 film which is two and a quarter square. 

Color film wasn t available in that format at that time. Early on it wasn t. In fact, we had some 
color film especially rerolled for us. It was not Kodachrome, I believe it was Anscochrome or 
something of that nature. It was kind of experimental on our part. The 4"x5" was a 
Kodachrome; Eastman Kodak had Kodachrome which was useful, and that was used by some 
of the members of the group, but rarely. 

War Photographers. Conditioned to "Shoot" 

Riess: Referring to Gene Smith and Ziff Davis and Flying magazine, Life magazine also sent its own 
photographers out? 

Miller: Oh, my yes. Carl Mydans I remember, I ran across Carl several times in the Philippines. 
Riess: Cornell Capa, who was he working for? 


Miller: Cornell was working with Life, I think he was in the Atlantic theater operations, the European 
theater operations. I was primarily in the Pacific. 

Let me tell you a funny story. At the end of the war, a group of us were sitting in this hotel, a 
group of correspondents, we were all kind of exhausted hanging around in this area and sitting 
on these couches. All of the sudden, somebody comes in and says, "Tojo s been shot." This is 
the sort of thing that s not for me to photograph. That s kind of spot news which would beif I 
got it, he s already been shot, so all I would have there was something after the fact. 

But I remember, and Carl s corrected me on this since, that Carl came over and he said, "I don t 
have my equipment here, can I use yours?" Picked up my camera bag and went out. I ve 
talked much of this to Carl since, and he says, "No, I didn t do that." So, I don t know who it 
was. I remember one time, on the invasion of Luzon, the flotilla was there, the navy fleet, 
battleships, and cruisers, and destroyers, and all. Going back to this gunboat, I d previously 
been on there to protect the underwater demolition swimmers. This was only about a hundred 
yards or less off the shore. The battleships would be firing their guns in to kind of help out on 
this as well. Every once in a while, one of theirs would run a little short and drop down beside 
us, you know, and explode. That s not really part of my story, really. 

But I remember one evening, dark had come in and kamikazes started coming in. I have 
photographs of the sky just filled with firing and bullets going off from other ships in this same 
group. During this one evening, one of these kamikazes hit this battleship and killed the man 
who had planned to go up and establish the Time-Life office there in the Philippines when they 
got ashore. He was killed. Carl, who at that point hadn t yet made his pictures of MacArthur 
coming ashore, he was given the job of taking over this man s position as running the Time- 
Life operation there when he got ashore. 

When MacArthur came ashore he was riding in a little LST, kind of a little landing craft. On 
the landing craft, the motor is covered with a shroud of sorts, so there s a little platform there 
over the motor s power plant. On that, MacArthur was seated in his chair. It was certainly like 
the emperor entering the conquered city. He was coming by not too far from our gunboat. We 
were pretty well anchored there now, waiting to be told to pull out. In fact, he came by, and a 
fellow said, "Here he comes." 

I got up and looked at it, and then went down and laid down on the deck again. Because I 
knew I couldn t photograph him, it was too far away for my Rolleiflex. But that was 
MacArthur returning to the Philippines, and I m sure that it was the same thing that Carl must 
have been on the same landing craft to have gotten out and photographed MacArthur 

Riess: So the big picture is that you were one of many navy and army photographers, and other 
photographers that were not in your unit maybe, and also hanging out with war 

Miller: Well, I didn t hang out with any other military journalists. I did hang out with correspondents. 
They had a better pipeline of what was going on. In fact, when we talk about Hiroshima we 
can bring that up. 

Riess: I was wondering about the issue of photographers swarming over a scene. It s something that 
we re used to now, photographers snapping and flashing. 


Miller: That didn t exist then. I may have been the only photographer around in the areas where I was. 
If it had happened, I think someone in the crowd would have said, "Take it easy, buddy, it s a 
long war." 

Riess: When we talk about it, do you really picture it? Do you picture the water, and the shells, and 
the whole thing? 

Miller: Yes, sure. 
Riess: Did you come home with nightmares? 

Miller: No, no. I do remember one time, I think coming back from the Pacific. I don t know exactly 
where it was. I was in Honolulu and a strange thing happened, somebody kicked over one of 
those wooden folding chairs, and it hit the floor with a big crack. Next thing I knew, I was 
lying on the floor. It was a reflex of some sort, I didn t realize that I had it in me. But there I 
was. Outside that, I haven t had any. Maybe that was my way of getting rid of my nightmares, 
I don t know. 

We were conditioned highly strung, very highly strung. There was a subconscious that 
wound us up, I guess. Because there s nothing you can do, you re upset, you re concerned, but 
there s nothing you can do about it so you sublimate it. You ve got to go on. The interesting 
thing I became aware of is I had to be continuously alert to make the photographs. If I didn t, 
they would come and go and it would be too late, if I wanted that kind of a photograph. 

I should not have expended that kind of energy, I should have spent more time looking for the 
human interest kinds of things, which took place day by day, rather than waiting to try to 
photograph the kamikaze that hit its target. So what if you have that? God, I remember one 
time, a beautiful, sunny day, the kind of day where you take your kids to the park. Here we 
were in this carrier, quiet water, and all of the sudden a kamikaze came out of nowhere coming 
towards the carrier. He missed the top of the carrier and landed in the water probably a couple 
hundred feet away from the ship. 5 


The Bomb. Hiroshima 

Riess: Hiroshima. Do you have your images from that? At the end were you able to get prints of the 
pictures you took? 

Miller: After the war I went back and rifled the print files so that I could have copies of images that 
I ve made, but I didn t begin to do anything exhaustive in that regard because I wasn t there that 
long. I never saw a set of contact prints of what I d shot. The picture prints I have were those 
that were edited out by somebody else, probably by Steichen. 

5. See further on this story in Interview 5. 


Riess: How did you decide which ones you wanted to keep? 

Miller: My time was so short, I didn t even make a decision on that. I just found files where there was 
a bunch of stuff there, and went in and took what I could get hold of in a hurry. Like grabbing 
stuff before the house burns down. 

Riess: [looking at notes] What are these notes? 
Miller: This went with the film to Washington. This is the raw material. 

Riess: "September 12, 1945, to the attention of Lieutenant Commander John Drennan," with a note to 
forward it to Captain Steichen, and then the roll numbers and the numbers of the films. 

Miller: Roll numbers, exposure numbers. 
Riess: Tokyo, Yokohama, Hiroshima. 

How it is that you were there? Where were you right before the bomb was dropped? 

Miller: Well, let s back off a little bit. I think I was in Washington, D.C. Let me double check 
something, [gets up and brings back documents] 

Riess: You had been in Washington for Roosevelt s funeral. 

Miller: Well, I happened to be there. We would drop back periodically for a little rest, and also to 
recoup equipment and what not. That was our base, our home base. 

Riess: You were married by this time. 

Miller: 1942, yes, Joan was there. She worked in Admiral Perry s office. She was secretary to him. 
Riess: And when you went out to Honolulu, did you feel the war was winding down? 

Miller: Yes, we knew the war was winding down once the European war was turned off. We were 

moving all our forces out there to the Pacific. We knew it was just a matter of time. We were 
so big and so ponderous, we could just fall over and crush the Japanese. So, there was no 
question, it was an unequal contest. It was just inevitable. 

I just show this so you get an idea of the variety. These are orders that I had, some 
documentation that shows where I was. 

Riess: [looking at documentation, two pages covering from 1942 to 1945] You were back and forth 
and back and forth. Ceylon, India, Cairo, I don t know your pictures from that. 

Miller: I don t think I made any. 
Riess: Did you have any inkling of the creation of the bomb? 

Miller: None. Let s get into that. I guess, according to this, I was in Washington. I thought I was in 
Europe, but as I mentioned to you earlier, our orders gave us a great deal of freedom so we 


could come and go at will. One day a navy captain that I knew said, "Wayne"~see, in our 
orders, nobody told us where to goso when this navy captain said, "Wayne, I think you ought 
to go to Guam," I think it was, "and see so and so," that really set off bells ringing in my head. 
This was most unusual, the first time during the war that it happened. 

So, without thinking twice, I went out. I flew to San Francisco, I flew to Pearl, and on out to 
Guam. I located this man, told him that Captain So-and-So had suggested I see him. He said, 
"Well, I suggest that you report to this troop ship and get on that." No one said anything about 
why. I went to this troop ship, which I think was the U.S.S. Braxton, and it was filled with 
marines. I got a ride on this troop ship, and we were at sea for several days, I don t know 
exactly how many. And then we heard, by radio, that a bomb had dropped in Japan and our 
job was to secure the Tokyo harbor. 

Nobody described what the bomb was, except it was a big bomb. On this ship were other 
correspondents as well. One was Jay Eyerman, who was a photographer for Life magazine. 
Jay and I, I don t know if we had met before then or not, I don t really remember. But we went 
ashore, and at the mouth of the harbor, Tokyo harbor, spiked the guns or made sure they were 
okay so that ships coming behind us could move in without being fired upon. 

Riess: The term is "spiked the gun?" 

Miller: I guess that s a form of running a piece of metal into the firing pins of the cannons. I don t 
know, maybe it s a Civil War name. Anyway, to disable the cannons. 

So then we went to Tokyo, where Jay Eyerman picked up an interpreter, a hot trumpet player 
for Radio Tokyo, an awful nice fellow. He was a graduate of the College of the Pacific from 
Stockton and he was over visiting his parents in Tokyo when the war came along, and he was 
stuck. He was a Nisei, so he was more American than a lot of Americans. Jay got hold of him, 
or somehow or other it was worked out that he d be an interpreter for Jay. I hitchhiked with 
Jay to go to Hiroshima. We took the electric train and we went ashore at Yokasuka. 

Riess: Yokasuka is the name of the town? 

Miller: Yes, it s a naval base. That s it, up at the top. [looking at contact print] Jay Eyerman down 
there in frames ten and twelve, I got him swimming in the pool. 

Riess: "Jay Eyerman, of Life magazine, photographer, is swimming in pool in newly occupied naval 
yard. We walked up and saw a group of marines staring at the pool in a most undecided 
fashion. Without saying a word, Jay had stripped off his clothes and jumped in. The water 
was fine." 

In the next roll you ve got the whole marine corps in swimming, it looks like. This is all on 
August 30th. 

The bomb had been dropped on August 5th, but you still didn t really have any idea of what 
you were going to see? 

Miller: No, we were out of touch. I spent time then helping liberate some of the prisoners of war, 
following that point in time, after Yokasuka. 


Riess: You ve written descriptions of these prisoners of war. "Old man from South Africa" with a 
story that you must have gotten from him. 

Miller: I don t remember, I don t remember those things. 

Riess: [reading] "A young man from Michigan." "I am now aboard the USS Reeves continuing the 
prisoner of war operation." By September 1 st you ve gone to Shibaura district. 

Did you transfer your notes from something to something else? 
Miller: I must have been carrying with me my little Olivetti portable. 
Riess: That would have been standard issue, the little Olivetti portable? 


Miller: No, I think I paid for that myself. I have great difficulty writing and being legible, so I prefer 
the typewriter. 

Riess: "Cheering men." "A group of Greeks." "A missionary from Montreal." 
Miller: I made notes, and I transcribed these from my note pad to a typewriter. 

Riess: At the end of this sheet of photo caption material, you say, "This is all, please forward all film 
to Captain Steichen after you re finished with it. Thanks, John." 

Miller: I m saying, "Thank you, John." John Drennan. "Please forward all film after you have finished 
with it," is so I am not hurting his feelings. He s under orders to not touch it but to send it on. 
And you see, it might have been two different shipments. I had to do things so that I got 
enough done to get it out quickly and then move on and do another one next time. 

That was in Tokyo. You see, I developed a relationship with Jay, and then on the 3rd of 
Septemberall the other stuff took place between the 30th and the 3rd~we went down to 
Hiroshima. We didn t have any food, we didn t have any blankets, nothing of that sort. We 
just had our camera equipment and maybe a bunch of candy bars. 

Riess: You call Hiroshima, "Atomic Bomb City #1." Was that how it was referred to? 
Miller: I don t know when I put that in there. 

See, I have two rolls of color, Agfacolor. I don t know what happened to that. 

I guess it was being called that. But "atomic," that s like the new name of an automobile. 
Could have been. 

Riess: Are you saying that with all that you saw in Tokyo of cities being destroyed, Hiroshima was 
just another city? 

Miller: Another war scene. I didn t suffer any great impact, saying, "Oh, my God." Nothing like that. 
The place had been bombed, destroyed. I had seen other things not unlike that. As I 
understand it, this atomic bomb was kind of like a large incendiary bomb. It didn t dig a hole 
in the ground, it just exploded above the ground and blew things apart and burned everything 


up. Well, Tokyo and Yokohama suffered equal, maybe comparable damage, and I understand 
that there may have been an even greater loss of life in Tokyo than there was in Hiroshima 
during the war. So you re dealing with destruction which is hard to comprehend. Hiroshima 
didn t stand out. Anyway, I didn t react to it. 

Riess: I bet you ve been asked about it so much since then. 

Miller: Yes, I have. It s like the book I did in Chicago on the blacks. People say, "My God, listening 
to all that marvelous music. Gosh, what a lucky guy you were." In hindsight, I think I was 
tone deaf, I didn t hear any of that. 

Riess: Your image, the man crossing the plaza, or empty area, is this the center of the city? 
Miller: Yes, that s pretty much the center, yes. 
Riess: And it s completely leveled. 

Miller: Completely leveled. Of course, this bomb covered such a large area. It would take a 

panoramic camera to give it the sweep that it should have had. But that s one direction, and I 
think that right in the center of the town there had been a military encampment. And that s 
pretty well blown that military encampment apart. 

The next picture shows a plank of wood. Planks were standing on which was written, "In 
memory of the southern army," that this was a memorial to soldiers of the eighth division of 
the Southern Area Army. 

Riess: The next picture? 

Miller: We arrived there in the morning. It was a misty rain. It wasn t a downpour, it was a misty rain, 
you stay outside, you get wet. Jay went off with his interpreter and I was on my own, and I 
wandered into this deserted building, or remnants of a building, which is concrete. I 
understood that it was a bank building. Nothing inside except this big open space. Here and 
there were people lying on mats, obviously wounded. There was no light, there were no 
nurses around, that I could see, and nobody attending these people. They were just there. So, 
I made these few pictures. 

Riess: Where does the light come from? 

Miller: A flash, these are all flash pictures. I had, in some cases, an extension flash. This was a flash 
that I held in my hand. I extended my arm out to make this picture. 

Riess: Was the crutch across there? Or did you arrange it? 

Miller: No, I didn t touch a thing. When I make a photograph, that s the way it is. I don t change 

Riess: Was that your rule for you or for the navy? 
Miller: The navy never said anything about it, it was my rule. 


Riess: You know, it was something that the FSA cameramen were asked, if they had moved anything. 

Miller: No, I didn t. I might have moved something in order to be able to see the subject, but other 
than that, I don t think I ever did anything like that. 

Riess: What are the specks over the people? I thought it might be blood. 

Miller: It could be blood, but I think it s just flies. It was the 1 st of September, and it was humid and all. 
It was great fly season. This you can see, this older woman lying there, and somebody brought 
her a letter of some sort. I think somebody s even interpreted some of those words on there. 
So she s just lying alone, and I have no idea how they got there or what it was about. 

See, here s another, I think I had another light over here, an extension light. 


Riess: Did you have an interpreter with you? 
Miller: No. 
Riess: So there was no way of you talking to these people? 

Miller: No. I think it s the same people that had the crutch in the picture. This is the only medical 
person I saw, and she was taking care of this little child here, and I m assuming that s the 
mother. That s the only medical person I saw at this time. 

And this is a little temple, a temporary temple, I think, which was set up. 
Riess: These people look mostly destitute. 

Miller: But these people may not have been residents of Hiroshima. They came in, I think, afterwards 
from the countryside. Maybe to bring food to their families. Hiroshima was a railhead, so it 
was accessible to the larger community. 

Riess: Did these pictures get beamed around the world? 

Miller: I have no idea, no idea. I was in my own little vacuum when I made them, and afterwards I 
remained in my same little vacuum. I don t know what happened to them. I do remember that 
first picture I showed you, when Newsweek made a story on the anniversary a few years ago, 
they used this as the lead picture, which was interesting. They picked these up out of the 
archives. All these negatives are in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. 

I don t know what the impact [of the photographs] was, if anything. I do know that Joan and I 
were back there last year, or the year before last. And the museum back there, which is focused 
on this very moment, hadn t seen my photographs. I ve been negligent not sending them a set 
of these pictures. 

The Dealers. Collectors. Print Quality Questions 

Riess: It s interesting to see your photo books here. What is the system you have with the green tags 
and the pink tags? 

Miller: Some photo dealers, who sell photographs, recently were out here, last week or the week 

before last. The green ones are selections that one dealer would like to have, and the red ones 
another dealer would like to have. But as I told you, I raided the files in the National Archives, 
so I don t have the negatives. I may have duplicates of the original files. Others, I have made 
copy negatives, and made 1 1"xl4" prints which are very, very good prints. I really can t tell if 
they re copies. Some of those are of interest to the market. 

Riess: What do you have to sell to the dealers? 

Miller: If I have duplicates of some of these, I may decide to sell a duplicate of this print, 8"xlO" 

glossy. Or if I don t have a duplicate and I have a good copy, I ll ask him whether or not he d 
like to have that copy. 

This business of selling prints is a new aspect of photography. It s kind of mind boggling to 
me, another whole world. I m not necessarily interested in doing it, but then I say, "Well, why 
not? Why not get the pictures out to other people?" 

Riess: Where are these people coming to you from? 

Miller: Let me say, there s one fellow in New York City, Howard Greenberg. He s a very well- 
recognized dealer in photography, he has a gallery in New York City. He was interested, and 
he came out, or his partner came out here. Then there s a fellow from Boston, he came out and 
he made one of these choices. Then there s another dealer in Chicago, Steve Dater, he came 

Riess: You say it s a new thing? 

Miller: Forme. It s sort of been around since the beginning of time, I guess. But for me this is a new 
thing. Evidently these people are well established in their field and respected by others, so 
since I have them located geographically, why, it seems like an opportunity for me to distribute 
some of my work. And it s interesting that this fellow in Boston has sold a couple of my 
pictures to the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. Evidently, there are some others that 
they re interested in as well. Rather than coming to me directly, I guess they like the "heat 
shield" concept, to deal at arms length with somebody like this. Yale University has bought 

Riess: I was going to ask you if you had an agent. 
Miller: No, these in effect are agents, you see. 

Riess: I was asking whether you think they re looking for art or history, and you re saying? 

iv tlioiC 1 we re: prims tl 
id: wata ted to sn 

Riess: Did he have you sign them? 

Miller: Oh yes, the back of the print. A couple of them sold, good prices. As I say I was embarrassed. 
But the thing to do is to rise above it. Either that or not give him the bad prints. But a bad 
print to me is not necessarily a bad print to someone else. 

Let me tell you something interesting. At the Museum of Modern Art, in the photography 
department, I looked at some of the prints that they have in their permanent collection that are 
mine. They have some prints in there that I just got almost sick looking at the quality of them, 


they were so bad. I don t know how they got in their collection, but they re there. So I talked 
to Peter Galassi, who s the curator of the photography department at the museum, because I 
wanted to replace these and give them some better prints because they re representing who I 
am as a photographer and I m embarrassed by these. He said, "Now wait a minute now. 
C mon and let me show you something." 

We left his office and went out into the museum where they had an exhibit of some early 
photographs, or a collection, I forget what it was around, from the museum collection. We 
looked at those. Specifically I remember a couple of Dorothea Lange prints, which I thought 
were pretty bad prints. Then we looked at some others, and they were too dark. Then he went 
on to describe how photography goes through phases of making very dark prints, or contrasty 
prints, or very light ones. So, in his mind it d be hard to describe a "good" print, because it s 
related to the times, the fashions, the conditions. Not the conditions, but the acceptance level 
of what is a good print. So, I came back and looked at mine again, and by God, I could see his 

Riess: That your printing had been variable? 

Miller: That my printing had been variable. Well, frankly, I questioned that to a degree, because I 
have prints here in my studio which I made at that time, and I can compare them with the 
prints I have made today, and they re almost identical. 

Now Ansel Adams had a different attitude on this. Adams just said that he considers the 
negative kind of like the score for music, and the print is the performance. The print can vary, 
depending on the mood of the photographer, or the feeling he wants to express. So, again, 
there is no one "right" print. And, coming from Adams, that s pretty good because he s the 
quintessential technician, and knows what he s doing. 

Riess: Peter Galassi talked you out of replacing the prints? 

Miller: Well, it s not that he talked me out of it. He had the prints and he wouldn t give them to me. 
He wouldn t let me make substitutions. 

Thinking about Picture Magazines and Information, and Museum Openings 

Riess: Museums and dealers, a far cry from your $12.95 camera beginnings. What a business you ve 
grown up through! 

Miller: It s covered some years. I m amazed at how many years have gone by, it doesn t seem like that 
at all. We re talking about World War II well, that started in 42, 41, now that s sixty years! 

Riess: I guess war increased the production and use of photographs? 

Miller: I don t know if that s the case or not. I would say after the war people continued to be 

interested in news about the world, and the picture magazine came into full flower at that time 
because of its ability to communicate values that hadn t been available before. We didn t have 


Riess: Communicate values? 

Miller: I m talking about information. 

Riess: Life started in 1936. It was always a picture magazine? 

Miller: Yes, it was designed to be that. 

Riess: And in 1936, did your family have it? 

Miller: No, I was unaware, really, of Life magazine at that time. Oh, I m sure I knew about it. 

Riess: And newspaper photography, was that minor compared to magazines? 


Miller: Oh yes, newspaper photography was still hardcore, one-shot flash of the accident or receiving 
a plaque, or something of that nature, somebody jumping out of a window. That was the 
Weegee period really in so many ways, that kind of photography. 

Riess: Police photography. 

Miller: Yes, that s a good way of putting it. The files, the morgues of magazines didn t begin to build 
until after World War II. In fact, the first picture story in Life magazine s morgue that they had 
in their files was one in 1951 by Carl Mydans, a story in Texas. Looking for photographs for 
Family of Man, I ran across that. That doesn t mean anything, they had been doing picture 
stories for many years before that. But as far as their building up a structured file, a reservoir 
of pictures, that s the first one in their files because Life magazine up until that time did not 
make contact prints of their photographers takes. The film was developed, and it was edited 
by a man whose name I ve forgotten, maybe something like Grubner. He looked at the 
negatives, the strips of film, and with a punch he marked the edges of the negatives for 
printing. Without contact prints. 

Riess: Could the photographer assert his preferences? On the negatives, or perhaps on the contact 

Miller: The photographer might not be there to do it. He might still be on the job, or on a new job. 

Life magazine, later when I knew themwell, I knew them about this time, after the war a 
lovely woman there, I must remember her name, she was, in effect, doing this job. She could 
look at a story that had come in, the contacts, and she could, in effect, put the hat of that 
photographer s head on her head and look at those pictures through the eyes of the 
photographer. She was very fine. She would pick out exactly what I wanted to show, she 
would get it every time. What was her name? It was a beautiful thing, and she loved 
photographs, and she loved the photographers. Her walls were just covered with pictures of 

Make a note that I d like to tell you about looking for pictures for the Family of Man, how Life 
was in the process of throwing out all photographs that hadn t appeared in the magazine. It s a 
nice story. Make a note of that so we can touch on that sometime. 


Riess: I m also interested, in doing the Family of Man, whether you dug into the Farm Security 

Miller: No, I did not. I don t know why. I don t know if that s because Steichen knew the archive so 
well, or he had enough books on it, or records of it. He had done a show on Farm Security. 

Riess: The Bitter Years. That was in 1962. 

Miller: I thought he had done an earlier one, too. Anyway, I did not go through their files. I wish I 

Riess: One article you gave me, I guess from U.S. Camera, you were in New York in 1946 and you 
photographed a Weston opening. I was trying to get into your mind, because you seem very 
ironic in your comments about the sort of holiness and hushed voices, hovering around these 
pictures. I thought, "Wayne Miller has just come back from the theater of war and he s 
arriving at this temple of art and he s commenting on something here." 

Miller: I was trying to express just that. I considered it a temple. Of course, a good bit of this is the 
arrogance of a young person which I ve done my best to try to overcome. But it was a 
holiness, and a preciousness, that I didn t feel in photography. I was interested in human 
emotions and unpretentious presentations. The Stieglitz school and some of these other 
approaches, it s another kind of photography that I was just not sympathetic to. 

I was just unappreciative, because I didn t understand, really, what they were after, what they 
were trying to do. As a young, virile man, I was not concerned with sunlight on the landscape, 
per se. I felt there was a form of posturing in that kind of photography. 

Riess: Weston s an example of a photographer who reported on his feelings as he was taking pictures, 
in his Daybooks. 

Miller: I had great respect for Weston and his efforts to do his thing. I must say that some of his 

images were not as exciting to me as others. But I could understand him as a human being, 
and his struggles. I didn t know him very well, God almighty, I knew very little about him. 
Maybe I spent an hour in his presence. 

Riess: Given what we talked about last time, about making a last creative stab, Weston had 

Parkinson s disease in 1948, and then he died maybe six years later, I m not sure. But four 
years before he died he said, "Was I cut off from my creative work at just the right time? Was 
I through? I don t think so, but could be." I was interested that he was even- 
Miller: thinking about it? 

Riess: --thinking about it in those terms. "Cut off at just the right time." 

Miller: Well, it s hard to argue with a man s self-examination. But Ansel Adams current show I 

haven t seen it, but I understand that Szarkowski said that he didn t include anything later than 
1950. In other words, his very young years were his best. I don t know any photographers 
whose work improved as they got older. I think much of it is based on the juices they had and 
exercised during those early experiences. 

Marriage to Joan 

Riess: Now a thread that we have to pick up here is your marriage to Joan. She was a college 

Miller: Yes, I met her when she was a freshman, I think, at the University of Illinois at Urbana. She 
lived in Urbana, Illinois. She was a town girl, and I was a senior, or a junior, I guess, when I 
first met her. We hit it off, and through a series of emotional tornadoes, and earthquakes, and 
forest fires, we stuck together. 

Riess: Did you get married on leave or something? 

Miller: In June of 42 Steichen arranged for me to have time off to go back to Chicago from 

Washington, D.C., and I went back to Urbana, Illinois, where she lived. Then Steichen invited 
us to use his home in Connecticut, outside of Ridgefield, for a week or so for a honeymoon. 
He had a housekeeper there for us, it was just grand. He was living in Washington with his 
wife, Dana. That was the beginning of my married life with Joan. 

During the war we had an apartment in Washington, and she stayed there until she became 
pregnant with our first child, Jeanette. She went back to Chicago for my father to deliver 
Jeanette, and I managed to fly in over the heads of our landing GIs in Linguyan Gulf, 
Philippines, to be there for Jeanette s birth. Afterwards Joan returned to Washington just for 
visits, and I remember the photographs that I made of Jeanette in Washington. 

Riess: Given the liberty you had in your job, you could probably be together more frequently than 
many enlisted people. 

Miller: Yes, I had that great freedom. But that s a mixed pleasure in that it got to the point toward the 
end of the war that I didn t want to come home as much, because coming back, my world and 
my rhythms were so different than hers. She had her own world and rhythms. Not until the 
last hours of our being together, before I went out again, was there the quietude. 


Aboard USS Saratoga, November 5, 1943. Miller was a member of USN Combat Photo Unit. 

Entering Hiroshima. August, 1945 

Birth of son David. Grandfather Harold Wayne Miller is the obstetrician. 1946 

California Cotton Pickers. December, 1949 

Edward Steichen and Wayne Miller. Together they edited the Family of Man 

Wedding in Mexico, in a remote village where a priest had not visited for thirty years. 1952. 

Migrant workers camp. San Joaquin Valley, California, 1950 

Saying grace. Lebo, Kansas, 1950 

The first dead from the Korean War. San Francisco, 1951 

Returned Korea veteran in a bar. San Francisco, 1951 

General Douglas MacArthur on his return from Korea. San Francisco, 1951 

Older couple living in trailer park. Richland, Washington, 1952 

Senator Nixon visiting his hometown school. Whittier, California, 1952 

Backyard. Orinda, California, 1954 

Jayne Mansfield and fiance, Mickey Hargitay. Los Angeles, 1958 

Wedding of Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay. Los Angeles, 1958 

Alan Chin for the New York Times, November 14, 2001. 

Alex Webb (Magnum Photos). New York Times, November 18, 2001. 

Chang W. Lee for the New York Times, December 11, 2001. 

John Cohen (PowerHouse Books). New York Times, November 18, 2001. 

The Miller family Wayne, Joan, Peter, Dana, David, Jeanette. 1974 


[Interview 3: August 24, 2001]## 

Newsweek Covers. Marshall McLuha 

Riess: You were saying something about Marshall McLuhan. 

Miller: Yes, Marshall McLuhan. I photographed him in Canada somewhere, in Montreal or 

someplace. A marvelous experience. He talked about how when people go on trips they 
invariably go to check out whether or not the postcard is really true. Once they see it, well, 
they quickly run on. The image is so important to most of us. He met this woman with her 
baby in the baby carriage and he bent over and said, "What a lovely child you have, ma am." 
She said, "Well, that s nothing, you should see his picture." [laughter] 

Riess: That s very funny. 

Miller: He was an interesting man. I did a Newsweek cover on him. It was a fun kind of cover. It 
shows the gambling quality in my make-up. I flew from San Francisco to Ontario, or 
wherever in Canada it was. I photographed him. One roll of Kodachrome, a roll of color, I 
don t know, maybe Ektachrome. I had marked on my ground glass where I wanted him to be. 
And I took that roll of color, because they wanted a color cover. Then while I was there I 
made, oh, probably a dozen other black and white photographs of him, all kind of 
miscellaneous poses. 

I came back to San Francisco, developed the black and white negatives, and I made prints, and 
took the prints down to KQED television studio and had them project them. I still had this roll 
of color in my camera and I backed it off and re-exposed it together with each of half a dozen 
or about eight different black and white images, I think. I d make one exposure, advance it, 
move the image around or another image there, another frame, and expose that onto that one. 
Then I backed it off and redid it on all these different black and white prints I had, to make up 
this collage, I guess, for a cover. 

That was a hell of a gamble, because all I had was that one roll of color. It worked pretty well, 
it came out fine. I can show it to you. I thought, "Well, why not?" Just try it, you know? I 
didn t cover myself in any other way. I could have had a mechanical problem of backing this 
film off and rewinding it, because this camera, you can t make a double exposure, you have to 
rewind it and re-expose it. At any rate, that kind of a gamble, I don t know why I did it, except 
that I thought it would be fun to try it. 

Riess: Were you a contract photographer for Newsweek! 


Miller: No, no. I would do different assignments. I did maybe four or five, six covers for them at 
different times. 

Riess: And once you do something well they ll call you again, right? 

Miller: Well, it seemed so, yes. I don t know whether it s because they like one s work or because they 
get comfortable with you. But it makes it easy to do it, yes. 

Riess: That idea of how to photograph Marshall McLuhan, was it a play on what he was interested 

Miller: Yes. It was a play on his point of view about communications, and how we re exposed to all 
kinds of input. I had even had some oscilloscope images that I photographed and had it 
coming out of his ear. [laughter] It was just a play on his concept. 

Riess: How much were you paid for something like that? 

Miller: I have no idea. I m wondering where I would have a record of it. Not very much. I would be 
getting, maybethis was some time ago I would be getting all expenses plus probably five 
hundred dollars or something like that. I was not a top drawer business man when it came to 
this sort of thing. I just sort of took whatever seemed to be reasonable, not fighting for prices. 

Riess: I would think it would be hard to organize your finances as a freelance photographer. The 
record-keeping, the tax reporting. 

Miller: Well, it s not difficult, it s just impossible. It got to the point when I d do assignments that I 
would probably do it in an airplane or something of that nature, or in a coffee shop if I was 
driving. I d take out my wallet and see how much money I had. When I got back home I 
would do the same thing. The difference I d weave into an expense account. I d figure that 
whatever I spent in the time I left home and the time I got back was job related. 

The Doukhobors 

Miller: I remember I was photographing Doukhobors, up in Canada. 
Riess: That s the religious group? 
Miller: Yes, Tolstoy encouraged them to come over. 

I did this for Life magazine I don t know, a few pages in there. The Doukhobors were against 
government interference, and they wanted to be absolutely free. I think freedom fighters, or 
freedom something was part of their nomenclature as far as identifying themselves. They 
were free of any material commitment. 

They lived on this ridge out in the middle of nowhere, and they built these little wooden 
homes, nice little homes. There may have been twenty-five of them. This was wintertime, or 
cold weather when I was there. When God told them, or spoke to them about the purity of the 


soul, and how they should express themselves, that they were free of all shackles of mankind, 
they would set fire to their homes, stand there nude, and sing to their God. This was directly 
related while I was there to protests they were having; they were protesting the Canadian 
government demanding that they send their children to school. 

Riess: You had been sent on the assignment because they were in the news? 
Miller: That was the news hook. Plus the fact that they would burn their homes. 

I was up there, but they wouldn t make a thing out of this, they wouldn t tell me in advance 
they were going to set fire to something. When the mood happened, or the moment happened, 
they would gather a few things together in a little bag or handkerchief or something and put it 
out by the back door. When they got the mood they d set fire to it and pick up their little ditty 
bag and walk off. Others would see the smoke and they would come over to join them to sing, 
[laughter] I m making a long story out of a short point. 

Riess: It s not a very convincing system. 

Miller: Well, I saw this smoke coming up, so I ran over there because nobody had told me about it. I 
had to climb through a barbed wire fence and I went down and made some pictures. A group 
of young women, teenage girls, I photographed them, and as they came to the end of their 
singing one of them looked at me and smiled and said, "You ve joined us." I didn t understand 
until she looked down at my trousers, and going through the barbed wire fence I had torn the 
crotch out of my trousers! That went on the expense account, a new pair of trousers! 

Riess: As you describe these Life stories, I feel like I remember them. I m sure you have this 

experience when you talk to people about stories you ve done, people in the Life magazine 

Miller: Yes, it was important to us. I remember when Life first came out. I was in Chicago, and of 
course this was before the war. Life came out and people would stand in line at the newsstand 
to get their copies. It was fascinating. They didn t have visual news, and it was very 

Riess: Were you always the reporter on the story? I mean, was there a reporter and a photographer, or 
was it sometimes one and the same? 

Miller: No, I was never a reporter per se. I would do captions. 
Riess: But in this Doukhobor story? 

Miller: In the Doukhobor I was the only person, there was not a reporter there. I believe that s true. 
The reporter-photographer relationship is a measure, in my mind, of the development of photo 
journalism. Right after the war, in Chicago, I was working as a stringernot a stringer, but just 
as a photographer. 


Editorial Struggles with Life Magazine Space. Layout. Rate 

Miller: I d work with Life once in a while. I had a relationship there that I could callit happened 
several timesI d call Hugh Moffit. He was head of our Chicago office at that time. I d say, 
"Hugh, I ve got a great idea." I d describe it to him over the phone. He d say, "It sounds good, 
go ahead and do it." 

Well, I m using that as one end of the spectrum, and at the very end of Life magazine, I felt it 
got to the point where they had to have a committee make a decision whether or not to cover a 
news story. They wanted to know what the end of the news story would be before they would 
assign it, which is absurd of course. Then they would have a writer research it, or some other 
people research it. Then you d go out with a writer. 

Practically speaking, I believe it became illustration, not photojournalism, where you went out 
and explored a subject photographically and were able to interpret it according to your own 
abilities or expertise, to bring something to it that straight journalism was unable to do. We 
were able to give it a little extra bit. That was lost as efficiency moved in. 

I remember some of the early assignments that Life magazine made, maybe one out of six 
stories or something of that nature would run. They overshot that much. At the end, I think 
there were very few stories they didn t run. Through economics, they had to be more efficient. 

Riess: Were they stories with time value? 

Miller: Some were. For example, time value in that you d photograph it and it was all laid out, but at 
the last minute the more important news story would come in, and they would bump it from 
that section. 

I did a cover for them one time, it was going to be a story they did on my book, The World is 
Young. They reviewed that. They had the cover all laid out and all, and at the last minute 
Henry Luce came in and thought that maybe it d be better to have a picture of this British 
general he had a thing for that particular general, I forget who it was. So at the last minute 
that cover was bumped, because of that little, that variation. The editors were all set, but by 
chance he walked in, so he just expressed his opinion. The vagaries of this sort of thing are a 
fact of life, a fact of the business of photojournalism in the news world. When something 
better comes along, it s understandable they want to do the best they can, so you do get 

Riess: Do they archive those and use them later, some of them? 

Miller: Sometimes, sometimes yes. I did a story, a funny little story I thought, on the potato chip 
convention in Chicago. An absurd activity which was just a PR promotion deal, having a 
potato chip convention. All the fanfare that went on about it was just to draw attention to their 
activities and to their industry. I photographed it and got, I thought, some kind of funny 
pictures. It interested the people at Life and they laid it out, but they shoved it aside. Then 
something like four or five months later they use it as a lead news story in Life, they brought it 
back. Well, that s an example of what you re talking about. 

Riess: That s great when you have an editor with a long memory. 


Miller: Yes. Or a magazine that has a weak spot, [laughter] Anyway, that s right, they do have that. 

Riess: When you would shoot that potato chip convention, was there a standard number of images 
that every story got? Could you pre-visualize the ideal layout and did you shoot for that 

Miller: Well, I think a photographer always wants more space than he ever can expect to get. I 

suppose a smart photographer would be able to do that, but I was never able to do that. I just 
shot the story, and when I thought it had enough for there to be a rounded package then I d~ 
sometimes you don t know that until you get done, but as you work through it you think, 
"Well, this says this and I need something else to back that up and here s a little side thing that 
would be fun to have here." 

There s an old saying at Life that it s like making a sandwich. You find the second best picture, 
and plan on that as being your lead, and your last picture is the best picture. Then you put all 
the other stuff inside of it, all of the other pictures inside of it like a sandwich to make it work. 
That s kind of the structure. In other words, you want to have that socko picture at the end to 
capture the spirit of what you ve exposed the viewer to up to that point. 

Riess: Did stories always end on the right hand side? 

Miller: They used to. That was because that s what got the most attention. As time went on, the ad 
took over that position. So the ads began to reshape the magazine. 

That s another thing about advertising. An editor, Ed Thompson, the editor of Life when I was 
there, showed me one time what he had to work with. I had talked about the ads stealing the 
pictures, stealing the emotions of a story, and he said, "Look, Wayne, I have this dummy to 
work with, and the ads are already printed and laid out using those pages, and I have the space 
between it to fill up." Maybe that wasn t always the case, but it seemed, in his mind he was 
constrained by that sort of economic reality, I guess. 

Also, a magazine is not put together and printed all at one crack. Color ads and some stories- 
to get the best quality printing you take time, and you print those things up ahead of time. 
Stories that don t have a time element. I forget how many sections there were in the magazine. 
But there was a news section, and then you had the back of the book section. 

The back of the book had the stories that you could put to bed early on; because they weren t 
going to be interrupting the news area they would be printed early on. In the late forties and 
fifties Life would close the news section on Saturday evening, and if all hell broke loose, 
maybe Sunday morning or something. 

Then it was done up in duplicate. It was edited in New York, but it was printed in Chicago at 
the Donnelly Press. So one set of the magazine was flown to Chicago from New York, and the 
other was put on the train to Chicago. Two sets were made up to go. The timing was down to 
the minute, down to the fraction of a minute. 

Riess: That was just insurance? 
Miller: Yes, that was their coverage in case something happened. 


Riess: Editorial was all in New York. When you talk about Luce taking a look at something, that 
would be in New York? 

Miller: It all happened in New York. 

Riess: In the center of the universe. I mean, in some way. 

Miller: In some ways, it is the universe. It depends on who you are. 

Riess: In terms of going to color, I don t remember color in Life. 

Miller: Well, that s where you had the essays, some of the essays. I m thinking of one by Gjon Mili in 
Ireland. There s many of them. But they would have a color essay in there later on. That s the 
sort of thing that would go to press early on, you see. You have some of these things that are 
locked up, but the editor has to be careful he doesn t put himself in a straight jacket so that he 
doesn t have any room to move. But some of those constraints in a news story meant that. 

I got a note from Ed Thompson one time saying, "Wayne, I wish this had gotten to us sooner, 
but we just didn t have the space. At the last minute this happened, so we re stuck." An editor 
has terrible constraints, he doesn t have the freedom to wave his baton and to make these 
things happen, because he s locked in. 

Riess: Do you get paid for it anyway, whether it runs or not? 

Miller: You get paid a day rate. But a photographer always received a page rate as well, whatever is 
higher. I had some essays that were laid out for ten pages that ended up with four or five 
because of this kind of a contraction. And you re a little upset, because if you no longer have 
the whole sweep of it, that whole treatment of the work, you re very unhappy about it. But 
you ve got to move on, and get on to the next job. 

Sometimes you re surprised, you get more space than you expected, and that s because these 
constraints were less and the editors felt that they could afford to do that. 

Riess: Was Ed [Edward K.] Thompson particularly who you worked with? 

Miller: Well, he was there the majority of the time that I was there. I m talking about the late forties 
and fifties. 


Miller: I remember on a news story, a couple of them actually, where it was on a Saturday, I guess, and 
I had time to develop my negatives, make some prints, but I didn t have time to dry them. I 
went to the airport with the wet prints on the seat of the taxicab with me, and by the time I got 
to the airport they were pretty well dry. I flew them to New York in order to get them in there, 
because they wouldn t have time to make prints there, you see. 


A funny thing happened, one of these cases. I d made the pictures in Washington, D.C., and I 
rushed them to New York. What I d done was I photographed Sputnik flying over the capital 
dome in Washington. I d waited, I d figured out, I d talked to this fellow at the space office. 
He had an office on Pennsylvania Avenue in an old storefront or something. He ended up head 
of the whole big NASA deal. 

I talked to him and got an idea of what the orbit would look like and where it would be coming 
over the Capitol dome. So I got up, I positioned myself on a street facing the Capitol dome at 
night, and sure enough, there it comes, Sputnik. Beautiful. Then a taxicab started coming 
down the street, so I took my wallet, put it over the lens to hold it so it wouldn t destroy that 
image. It went by, and I took this film [makes jet noise, whoosh] to the airplane. 

I had prints made as soon as I got there, notified the lab that I was coming, and they made 
prints quickly. Then I took these wet prints again to the Hayden Planetarium in New York 
City. The scientist there looked at this and said, "Yep, yep." He got his calipers out, "Yes, yes, 
that s the Dog Star, all right!" [laughter] Sputnik was in an orbit, and the atmosphere was such 
that I couldn t have seen it that night. I was so happy I had this great symbolic image, the Dog 
Star flying over the Capitol! 

Riess: But you had some qualms, which is why you went to the Hayden? 
Miller: Yes, you always have qualms. 
Riess: Putting the wallet over the lensyou must have developed so many impromptu solutions. 

Miller: Well, I could have used my hands, I could have stood over it or something. But that s right, 
there are impromptu things like that. 

Close-ups. Rapport. Photographing Children 

Riess: In a story, did Life always want to have some close-up faces? Was there a formula about 

people and heads and the physical person? How much did that turn up in a story? Was that the 
story, the person? 

Miller: It was the person, I believe. I never heard any mention made of how to photograph those 
things. You knew that you needed to have an establishing shot, and then some close-ups, 
what s happening within that larger image. 

What you remember on a job and what you don t remember reminds me, I had lunch at the 
Museum of Modern Art with Robert Frank, he came up for lunch one day. And this is, I guess, 
while we were working on The Family of Man. 


Miller: He was just back from seeing the art director of Fortune magazine. I knew that he had been on 
a job to photograph the inventor, or the developer, of the Maytag washing machinehe spent 
time flying with him from coast to coast. And he d taken his photographs to the art director 


and the art director evidently was somewhat unhappy because he didn t have a picture of this 
man with a Maytag washing machine. So this is the kind of thing, a detail, but it s kind of 
funny. Funny but sad. 

Riess: For you, your predisposition is to photograph people, isn t it? 

Miller: Yes. I have a lack of appreciation, and I know I have a lack of talent, in being able to make 
forms, inanimate forms by themselves, attractive. I don t react that way to them like a Harry 
Callahan might, or others. I m not interested in them. I m more interested in how people feel, 
and how they react, what makes them tick, in a manner of speaking. I m interested in doing 
my best to capture how they feel and what they re thinking about. Not what I think they re 
thinking about, but what they are thinking about. Another way of putting it is that I want to 
tell their story, not mine. 

Riess: Is that through establishing rapport first? 

Miller: Rapport is an interesting thing. Sometimes it takes a long time to do it, or it seems to take a 
long time. Other times it s immediate when the subject feels comfortable with you, and feels 
that you re not trying to exploit them or criticize them, or to hurt them in any way. Everybody 
wants to tell their story, their own story. In effect, they almost welcome you into it. 

I ve been fortunate. I feel I ve been lucky in being able to do that, and do it quickly. I know 
that when I was working on this children s book, where I would be photographing childhood, I 
would spend time around the schools, schoolrooms. It got to the point that I figured out how 
to do it. I d stand up in front of the class while the teacher was talking, and I d take my camera, 
open the back of my Rolleiflex up, and take a roll of film out and put another one back in kind 
of slowly. I d let the kids see what I was doing there, and fold it up again. 

Then without looking at them at all I would move about and start making some photographs. 
It got to the point that I could walk into a classroom unannounced and walk down between the 
desks beside a child and make photographs and not interrupt the class or interrupt that child. I 
always found it kind of surprising that it would be so easy. If a child was curious and looked at 
me and started to smile, and maybe react to me, I would say, "Please keep doing what you re 
doing." And surprisingly enough, they would. It s worked with adults the same way. 

Riess: That s a little of how you describe working with the Rolleiflex. You said that was important, 
that you were not behind the lens. 

Miller: That s a possibility there. But also when I m using an eye level camera it seemed to be the 
same kind of reaction. 

Thoughts on Cameras. Getting the Shot. Art. Beautv. Et Cetera 

Riess: When you were working for Life in those early years were you using both cameras? 

Miller: No, I was using the Rolleiflex, because it was the only camera I owned. I didn t have a 35mm 
that I could feel comfortable with. 


Riess: You tried it and weren t comfortable, or you weren t financially able to move from one to the 

Miller: Well, the camera I had was a Contax, and it was an inferior camera. I wasn t comfortable with 
it and didn t get the results, so I just didn t do it. I did have two Rolleiflexes, and used them. 
I d carry them with me because that s a case where I had one always filled with film, you see. I 
didn t have to be at the mercy of running out of film. 

Riess: Are there a variety of lenses for Rolleiflexes? 

Miller: No. Well, there was a little slip-on lens. They call them Proxars, little extra lenses you slip 
onto the lens and it gives you the opportunity to work closer to the subject. I used those not 
infrequently because I wanted to get closer and closer to my subject. What I couldn t do 
intellectually or through design or whatever else you want to call it, I tried to get closer 
physically to a subject. In fact, those pictures I made of Joan and childbirth are all with Proxar 

Riess: You would get distortion with an ordinary lens, if you got that close? 

Miller: No, it wouldn t be in focus. It s not a case of correcting distortion, it s enabling me to move the 
camera closer to the subject because the Rolleiflex, I think, is a little less than three about two 
and a half feet is as close as you can get to the subject. If I wanted to get closer, I had to use 
the Proxars on there. 

Riess: This is interesting. It sounds like you were making some decisions to work within a format. 
Whereas, I mean, maybe other people are more interested in experimenting with going with 
the technology. Do you think at some point you were saying that the technology was of 
secondary interest? 

Miller: It definitely was. I felt that the straight, available technology, was enough if I could just 

exploit it and use it. I didn t feel that I was being held back by lack of technology. It was my 
lack of perception, my lack of sensitivity, my lack of being able to understand what was taking 
place that I was working on constantly. Trying to squeeze more out of my nerve ends and my 
brain and my emotion, in order to better understand. 

Once I could understand what was going on, then I could photograph it. That was a challenge. 
At times I would say, "My god, this is important, but what the hell is it there that is saying it?" 
And, "What is there in this image here that says what I feel?" So I d be struggling to find that 
to photograph. 

Riess: Do you think sometimes it s the first shot that s the great shot, before you know what s going 

Miller: Well, here s a story. Eleanor Roosevelt came out to help her son Jimmy Roosevelt in his bid 
for the governorship of California. With them was Helen Gahagan Douglas. They stopped at 
a home in Berkeley to visit and I was with them and I photographed a conversation going on. 
This was a group of five or six people. I made maybe a dozen photographs, and all of a sudden 
I stopped because I knew I d gotten that last one. 


Sometimes it happens that you know you ve got it so there is no reason to keep doing it. These 
images were used in the back of Life magazine where they had a little section, the last picture 
in the book, "What s behind the picture," or something of that nature. They used this 
[photograph with Eleanor Roosevelt]. When I see a moment that really works, and I make a 
picture then, I don t have to develop the film to see whether or not it s on the film, I know it s 

For example, when I would come back from an assignment or leave an assignment or a picture 
situation, if I had been really excited by it and affected by it, I knew it would be on the film. 
But if I left it and it was one of those situations where you couldn t care less about it, it was 
kind of unimportant, it was a nothing kind of thing, I knew I wouldn t have anything on the 
film. The personal involvement with the making of a photograph is all-important to me: to 
feel at one with that moment regardless of whether it be excitement, love, fear, or repugnancy, 
whatever it might be. To have experienced that, it will be there. But to not have had enjoyed 
that excitement or moment of sharing, it s a loss, nothing happens. 

Riess: Was this born out in other people s reactions to the images? 

Miller: Yes, I think it s fair to say that people believed that I had a little extra emotional quality in my 
pictures that made my work a little unique. 

Riess: It wouldn t need a caption? 

Miller: I wouldn t say it didn t need a caption, because what I was reacting to might just be a small 

facet of that image. The overall image is not a stand-alone icon of some sort. No, I m talking 
about the run-of-the-mill assignments. To touch on the human qualities of the subject was 
what I felt I could do pretty well. 

Riess: When you use the expression "the stand-alone icon" I think of the Dorothea Lange "Migrant 
Mother." Is that an example?" 

Miller: I think so, yes. But also it s a kind of an image which many of us make during our regular 
work, and some of these things are better than others. I think pictures of maybe comparable 
quality have been made by other photographers at different times. But somehow or other the 
readiness to view them and see them and look at them more than once or twice hasn t arisen, so 
that facet doesn t begin to develop. 

I think it was Alexander Pope who said, "Great audiences make great poets." When there is a 
readiness to see some things, a picture develops extra qualities. 

Riess: Were there some who were accused of too much artistry in their pictures? Can you think of 
examples of people who failed as Life magazine photographers because they came back with 
too arty a product? 

Miller: No, I don t think so. 

Riess: How much was that valued, the purely beautiful? 
Miller: I think if it s well done, people stand and salute, regardless. 


Riess: An editor wouldn t say, "This is too arty for us?" 
Miller: I don t think so. But if it s well done, it s not "arty." 

I was in the Life magazine photographers locker room one day and I was speaking with, I 
don t know, Carl Mydans or somebody else and in walks [Alfred] Eisenstadt, and in his arms 
he had this H"xl4" box that was obviously filled with prints. He was glum. He walked over 
to his locker and he was putting these things into his locker. The photographer I was with said, 
"Well, how d it come out Eisie? Did he like them? What was his reaction?" 

Eisenstadt said, "He looked at them, riffled through them, and he handed them back to me, and 
he said, You know I don t like ballet, Eisie. " Eisie had spent a month or so on this assignment, 
on this effort. He had done these bodies and all of this, beautiful things. I don t know whether 
this was an assignment or whether it was a self-assignment on his [Eisenstadt s] part, I don t 
know how it arose. But that s a partial answer to your question, because these were beautiful 

Other things happen. I did a story on Rose Resnick. Rose is a blind teacher here in San 
Francisco and she s been blind since she was quite young, I don t know, three or four, five or 
six. I did what I felt was a pretty sensitive story on Rose and the summer camp that she was 
directing. (A little side story here, we were sitting on a log there just talking between 
ourselves. She interrupted me and she said, "Wayne, tell me, what s a photograph?" And I just 
started to explain to her what it was, and all of the sudden, I had to stop. I didn t know, I 
couldn t describe it.) 

Anyway, that group of photographs which I sent on in to Life, this was an individual project. 
In other words, it wasn t assigned, it was self-assigned. Photographers like myself and others 
would do these things. We wanted to do it, we couldn t get an assignment, and we would go 
ahead and do it anyway. I sent them in, and he says, "Gee, Wayne, I wish you d told me you d 
been working on this. We ve just done our blind story for the year." These things happen. 

Riess: Was Ed Thompson a kind of clone of Luce in terms of knowing what Luce wanted? 

Miller: No, he was a newspaperman from Milwaukee, I believe. He ushered in a breath of fresh air, of 
reality. It wasn t self-conscious or anything of that nature. 

Riess: He had a pretty free hand? 

Miller: I think so. I really can t comment on that because I really don t know. When he retired from 
that, he took over and he created the Smithsonian magazine. So, he did that for quite a while. 

Riess: Tell me about the locker room, what do you mean, the "locker room?" 

Miller: Well, it was a space set aside where photographers could keep their gear. Not much more than 

Riess: Were you particularly assigned to cover politics, like this Roosevelt thing? 


Miller: I did that. I did several national conventions. But I don t think it was because of any particular 
appreciation or recognition of any special talents I had except that I enjoyed working that kind 
of thing. 

Riess: Do you remember the series "How America Lives?" The house I lived in Pennsylvania had 
been photographed by Life in the "How America Lives" series. It was about two GI Bill 
couples who were living in a farmhouse in Pennsylvania. 

Miller: Was this at Life or at Ladies Home Journal? 
Riess: I thought it was Life. It seemed a Life magazine thing. 
Miller: No, John Morris, I think, did that for Ladies Home Journal when he was picture editor there. 

I don t know how it happened, but Agnes Meyer [wife of Washington Post owner Eugene 
Meyer] had been a journalist at one time. I forget how it happened, but the idea was that 
Agnes and I would work together on a story in Appalachia. It never came off, it never came to 
fruition. She mentioned it several times later in life. But I m just saying that s that kind of 
thing, like "How America Lives." 

Riess: Agnes Meyer, did you do anything else with her? 

Miller: No, I spent some time with her at her home on Connecticut Avenue in Washington. I visited 
with her in Mt. Kisco. No, my relationship there was created through Steichen, who had been 
a family friend since 1900 or 1903. 

The Birth Series 

Riess: Back to our chronology. You came back to Chicago after the war and you did freelance 

magazine work. I see that Steichen put you into a show with three other people at the Museum 
of Modern Art in October, 1947. That included the birth pictures. The birth pictures are so 
important. You should, if you would, talk about how and why you decided to do that series. 

Miller: I d been photographing around the home and Joan was pregnant. Obviously a young couple, 
you think a great deal about pregnancy. This was Joan s second pregnancy; we already had 
had a girl, and this was the second pregnancy. I don t know how it actually came up, I don t 
remember exactly, but I decided that I d love to photograph this. Not a factual thing, but the 
symbolism of birth, the creation of life. 

I knew enough about the medical aspects of it, because my father was an obstetrician and he d 
exposed me to delivery rooms and Caesarians and what not. This was not going to be a 
Caesarian, this was going to be a natural delivery. I thought that this would be a way of 
touching, and getting at the essence of life, to be able to photograph this sort of a happening. I 
wanted to see if I couldn t do that, to get that close to Joan, that close to this happening, to this 
new thing in our lives. 


I had no problems whatsoever with the hospital, because my father was on the staff there. I 
don t know if he was chief of staff there or not. So that posed no problems. In the delivery, in 
the labor room, this struggle of Joan to give birth in the labor room is what I focused on. It s 
one of those things I tried to describe before, when you knew things were going right. It was 
so close, I was right close to this reality, this core nerve end, this exposed nerve end that I had 
been looking for, reacting to and all. I made these photographs, and it all happened so quickly 
somehow. I don t even remember how long. I don t even remember being there. I don t 
remember any problems of making the photographs, it all happened so naturally. 

Riess: And it s natural light, is it? 

Miller: No, it s all flash. This is a technical aspect that I d learned, that the bare flash bulb was better 
light than one with reflectors, so these pictures have that luminous quality to them which I 
think they enjoy because I didn t have the reflector on my flashgun. I think that was the case. 
Also, it was in a light-colored, small room that reflected the light nicely. 

Anyhow, I remember making these pictures and moving out of that labor room into the 
delivery room, and making those few pictures of the actual delivery, which wereI don t 
remember if any of them had Joan s face in it or not. It was my father now who was dealing 
with this new life. My father was so happy, although he jokingly was unhappy that David, our 
son, wasn t born on his birthday. Instead he was bom on the nineteenth of September, my 
birthday. My father s birthday was the fourteenth. He had done his best! 

Riess: What was the first public exposure of the birth pictures? Was it the exhibition that Steichen did 
at the Museum of Modern Art in October 1947? 

Miller: Yes, but there I did not include the picture of David being held by my father. So the MOMA 
exhibition showed the closeups of Joan in labor, a total of eight prints. I did not include the 
print of David being held up by my father. I thought that it was a little too spectacular for the 
MOMA show, and instead I included an image of David lying on a table in the delivery room. 
The picture of David being held up by my father was first displayed in the Family of Man 
Exhibition at MOMA in January 1955. 

Those pictures were first published in a magazine called Magazine of the Year. I don t know if 
you ever knew that magazine, but it was a magazine put together by writers and photographers 
to include the best of that year s work. Then Tom Maloney of U.S. Camera Annual published 
them. He gave quite a bit of space to them there, a page per picture, I think. 

That brings up another subject. Somebody from Tom s office said they needed some 
captionswould I get him some captions? I had drug my feet on that, because that s a sore 
spot for many photographers, where you feel that not only have you made a picture that you 
think has told a story, but now you have to put it into words so people can understand what 
they re looking at. It got to me a little bit. They finally said, "We need the captions," so I said 
"Okay," so I sent them captions. 

6. "The Beginning"was the title of the set of prints, and Wayne Miller was identified in a New York 
Herald Tribune article (Oct. 5, 1947) as a "twenty-nine-year-old fomer navy camera man, who 
turned to photography after a career in banking and finance... the picture sequence is described by 
Mr. Steichen without a gram of overstatement as having the stature of an epic poem . of the 
most stirring works ever to appear in a photographic exhibition." 


Let me get them for you. 

Riess: We re looking at U.S. Camera Annual, 1949. You say, "You wished camera data on the birth 
series, so here it is. Taken with a Rolleiflex, 3.5 Tessar stopped down to a l/250th at F22. I 
used Proxar lenses, making it possible to use the full negative, used one GE- 1 1 flash without 
any reflector, 120 film printed on Varigam paper, I had just had a haircut, was wearing black 
socks and a comfortable shirt. Anyone so equipped should have no trouble duplicating this 
series." [laughter] 

U.S. Camera Annual says, "The portrayal is beautiful enough and remarkable enough to make 
any descriptive superlatives useless. This series is photo-art at its best. No one looking at 
these pictures wonders or worries about art. These are great photographs because they 
perform an admirable duty to medicine in a matchless manner." 

The reviews of the show at the Museum of Modern Art were all superlatives. People were 
"awestruck" by them. You did something that nobody had done before? 

Miller: It seemed to be that way. 

Riess: You said in the museum release. "I should like to think that through photographs of the 

emotions of everyday living common to all man, it will be possible to explain man to man." A 
big mission for a photographer. 

Miller: I believed it, too. That s what I was doing with my Guggenheim. 


Baby s First Year and the Captions 

Riess: The birth pictures, were you originally doing them for yourself and Joan? 
Miller: We just did it for us. We had no assignment, per se. 

Let me tell you a funny story about an assignment. I had been working for Ladies Home 
Journal, and Bruce Gould was the editor, together with his wife. I think they were co-editors 
of Ladies Home Journal. One day we talked about my doing a story for the magazine about 
baby s first year, pictures made every month of a child s development. It was a casual kind of 
conversation. I didn t really focus in on it too well. 

I saw him about a year later, nine months or a year later, and he said, "Well, Wayne, how are 
the pictures coming?" I said, "What pictures?" "The baby s first year!" I said, "Gosh, I didn t 
think you were serious about that. I haven t been doing that." He thought for a minute or two 
and he said, "Do you plan to have another baby?" [laughter] I said, "It just happens that Joan 
is pregnant again." And he says, "Let s go ahead with the baby s first year." 

Then I got involved in doing that, photographing Dana, our second daughter and third child. I 
photographed her delivery, as well as each month I would spend three or four days or a week 


photographing her life. That eventually came out in the Ladies Home Journal. The first 
issue, I think, had four or five pages. Then they had two pages every month thereafter of her 
life. The same tune. 

During this same period, Dr. Ben Spock was doing a column for them. And after these 
pictures had run they got in touch with me and said, "Would you be interested in working with 
Ben Spock to do a book? He s asked about these pictures." I said yes. So, as a result of that, 
why, we came out with the book, Baby s First Year. 

Problems of Teaching. Chicago Institute of Design 

Riess: You were teaching at the Institute of Design. And Harry Callahan was there, and Buckminster 
Fuller was there. 

Miller: And Art Siegel, I think. 
Riess: What is the Chicago Institute of Design? 

Miller: This is an outgrowth of Moholy Nagy s Bauhaus. In fact, in the summer of 1941 I attended the 
Institute of Design on a different campus. It was downtown Chicago. Moholy was there, and 
Gyorgy Kepes. I took his course but I didn t do very well in it. 

Riess: They were refugees? 
Miller: Yes, Hungarians, I guess. 

So that was my first contact with it. Then, after the war, in the Chicago period, Harry Callahan 
contacted me about maybe teaching at the Institute of Design. You see, the GI Bill was in 
effect, and they had lots of students. They had given these photographic students two or three 
or four years of classes, and my understanding was that now they had run out of classes and 
they wanted something else. They asked me to come in. 

Serge Chermayeff was director of it. Serge and I talked one day and he said, "I d like to have 
you teach a course. I said, "About what?" He said, "Oh, you decide that." He left it entirely 
up to me what to teach them. But he knew that I was not an abstract photographer, I was a 
photojournalist, and so he was saying, anything in photojournalism, I guess. 

I showed up at the first day of this class, and on the way down I left home from the south side 
of Chicago in my car~I thought, "Well, I ve got to figure out something to teach them." 
Between the time I left home and the time I got to school I had it all worked out. It would be 
the photographer s self-expression or self-understanding of the world around him. 


I described to them that during this class we were going to cover a series of different facets of 
the same concept. One is, your being able to say with your camera what is a rich man, what is 
a poor man. What is a happy person, what is an unhappy person. I had a list of those, and that 
was the syllabus, if you want to call it. 

It was very difficult for some of those students. We looked at that paper a minute ago from the 
[Chicago] Art Institutewhat was his name? 

Riess: You were showing me a mailing about the Art Institute getting ready for an exhibition? 

Miller: They re doing an exhibition and a catalogue. It s an exhibition on the Institute of Design 
during the fifties, forties, forties and fifties. 

One student in my class, an interesting student, was Art [Arthur R.] Sinsabaugh. The Art 
Institute unearthed some notes that Art made from my class about what I was suggesting, and 
Art was not very happy about it, this wasn t his world. 

Many of the students at the institute had been living a cloistered life. They worked in the 
abstract world, and they enjoyed shapes and textures and tones. I came along, and I was 
getting them into something entirely different, which was documentary photography, and self- 
expression about people. Some of the students in this class of mine had moved away from 
people and had lived a life with inanimate objects where they were free and not being 
threatened. And some in the class, why, it seems they had been waiting for something like 
this. Because they just enjoyed it, they embraced it. 

Well, Art, for example, who did beautiful landscapes and design things, had troubles with this. 
This class met five times a week; I was there one day a week and they had another person 
come in and take over the other four days, an assistant, somebody to talk to. But I led the class 
and directed it and did the critiquing and all. Artthe day I showed up, Art wouldn t show up 
until 2, 2:30, 3 o clock in the day. He couldn t get out of bed, he d be sleeping. He just 
couldn t handle it. 

That kind of a mind set was symptomatic or reflective somehow of the kind of people who 
were there who were immersed in this other world of photography. Here I was wrenching 
them out of that to do something else. It was very, very difficult for them. 

Riess: Do you think it had something to do with the war? 
Miller: No, these were young people. 
Riess: These weren t the GI Bill people? 

Miller: Well, there were some GI. No, it s not the war, I just don t feel that they were that old. I don t 
know, I can t explain it, but it certainly made loud and clear to me that there s different ways of 
looking at, using photography. 

Riess: Did these people become professional photographers? Or was this just part of their design 


Miller: I think mostly the latter. We did put up a show, an exhibition which was, for all practical 
purposes, an early version of the Family of Man show, these different people. It was just 
lovely, grand. 

Riess: It was organized by the themes that you re talking about? 
Miller: Yes, yes. 
Riess: Did you enjoy teaching? 

Miller: Yes and no. I really enjoyed it, I did enjoy it. But I found that it was using up juices in my 
makeup that I wanted to save for other things, for my own work, for my own photography. I 
found it was a drain. If I had devoted myself to being a teacher, that s something else. But I 
was not, I was doing one foot on the pier and one on the boat. 

Riess: That the last time you ve taught, the only time? 

Miller: I think so. I ve done seminars, things of that nature. But I don t find it as satisfying as I might. 
Some people, they would teach and get rejuvenated, re-excited, energized by teaching. But 
quite the opposite was the case for me, I d feel drained. 

Also, looking at other people s pictures, I found that not as exciting as it might be. I only 
wanted to see my images, I didn t wantas a photographer, when you look through the view 
finder and you see pictures that you ve made before, it s kind of discouraging. Also, if you 
look through the view finder and you see somebody else s pictures, then why make it? So that 
kind of slows you down some. I think that it takes the edge off of curiosity and one s drive, or 
my drive, to think it s already been made. And awful nice pictures, made very well, so why do 
it again? So it wasn t for me. 

Riess: That s interesting, that inner censor. I mean, the older you would get, the more you would be 
likely to hear that voice. 

Miller: Well, one of the reasons I got out of photography is that I didn t likegoing back to 

photojournalism, I didn t like to do the same kind of an assignment over again. "First day at 
school," or "Somebody s wedding," or "Somebody s something else." I ve been there. And 
also like photographing industry and heads of industry, I wasn t a portrait person. I was 
curious, I loved doing it the first time, and the first couple of times, but to make that my 
world? No. That s not unrelated in my mind to looking at other people s photography. 

My impression, my understanding of what happens under certain circumstances is what is 
important to me, and trying to capture that. It can be dulled if other people have already been 
walking over the same ground. It makes it a bit stale, somehow. 

Photographing "The Wav of Life of tl e Northern Negro." Chicago 

Riess: You received two Guggenheims to do "The Way of Life of the Northern Negro" [1946-1948]? 


Miller: Yes. It was the idea that I wanted to do, and I wasn t thinking about the economics, I don t 
think, as much as the commitment to do something like that. I certainly needed the money, 
that s for sure, but it was the idea of committing myself to a big idea and to pursuing that until 
I felt that I couldn t do it anymore, or couldn t 

Riess: say anything more about it? 

Miller: Yes. That I would feel that I had reached my limits of being able to see, react, or be sensitive 
to these things. And so it s time to move on. I experienced that later on in life, as well, with 
different subjects. 

Riess: How did you select your subject? 

Miller: Well, it was during the war, towards the end of the war. You can t help but feel, when you re 
in service, that "Why are you there? What s it all about?" And, "Who s doing what?" "Is this 
important?" You question things. "What are we fighting for?" 

As I mention in my book, I was talking with some shipmates one day, one evening, on a 
carrier. We were talking about this, that we didn t know the enemy and they don t know us, 
and what the hell was it all about? I felt that if we could better know each other and could 
better understand each other s problems, there might be less fighting. I carried that with me, 
and I would try to figure out how I could approach it. 

I didn t want to go out and photograph all mankind and try to simplify it, put some boards 
around it. I came up with the idea of photographing blacks in Chicago. One, that I was 
planning to go back there and live where I d been bom, in Chicago. I didn t know anything 
about the black culture in Chicago, I don t remember even being there, visiting it. But that 
wasn t important. I was concerned with a defined group of people, and they wouldn t 
necessarily have to be black, they could have been anything. But this made it easier for me, to 
have it that well packaged. 

I applied for a Guggenheim, and I think it s probably to do with Steichen s sponsorship that I 
got it. I just wanted to photograph, as I said, "The Way of Life of the Northern Negro." Kind 
of a pompous title, but it had to have a title. That was it. I had no scenario, no story line, no 
list, of what I was going to do. 

Do you want to go ahead on this area? 
Riess: Yes. 

Miller: So the time came, and I set time aside to do this, and I found that I was just immobilized, I 
didn t know how to do it. Joan tells me~I say, "I sat there in the house we had there on the 
south side of Chicago for weeks," and she says, "No, Wayne, it was months." I just couldn t 
figure out how to function, because I couldn t find any handles to grab hold of. I finally threw 
up my hands emotionally, or mentally, and I took my camera and drove into the Black Belt. 

There I met, I don t know how I did it, but I met this man who was director of this community 
house, South Parkway Community Center. I guess somehow or other I learned about that. I 
went in and introduced myself, and he became the can opener. He became the guy who got it 


started for me. That was Horace Cayton. And he and a colleague had written a book on the 
Black Belt, Bronzeville, called Black Metropolis. 

Riess: What was that word, Brownsville? 

Miller: Bronzeville. It s just called Black Metropolis. I think Richard Wright did a story called 
"Bronzeville" and Ebony used my photographs for it. 

Riess: The blacks referred to the community as Bronzeville? 
Miller: Well, some of them did, yes. 
Riess: Why were you immobilized, now when you look back at it? 

Miller: I was just trying to grab hold of what was I going to photograph. I realized the immensity of 
this concept, and the presumptuousness of a naive guy like myself to be involved in it. Here I 
was going to go out and set the world straight. All of the sudden you realize that that s a kind 
of a big job. 

Riess: Were you supposed to produce a book, a product, for the Guggenheim? 

Miller: No. In fact I can t find that I even supplied an application that said just what I was going to do, 
except that I wanted to photograph the blacks in the south side of Chicago. 

Riess: Had you been among the blacks for any of your magazine assignments? 

Miller: No, never. I did photograph black sailors during the navy assignment, and I believe their 
supply base in Guam. I certainly enjoyed that, being with them. 

Riess: And are you saying that images of blacks were not that common? 


Miller: Well, blacks were not a hidden culture or a hidden people. But in Chicago I hadn t gotten to 
know any blacks, really. I met some in grammar school or something, but I hadn t lived 
among them or spent time among them or even gone to bars with them. 

So what would I photograph? And how do I do it? 

I finally ended up just walking down the street after I talked to Horace and he introduced me to 
people, and happenings and all. And he also introduced me to Ebony. In the same building 
they had this publishing group called Johnson Publishing who published Negro Digest and had 
just started Ebony. I met Ben Burns, who was the editor of Ebony, and he was looking for 
photographers and he was very interested in my working with him. That was one of the things 
that helped get me started, because he gave me assignments to get my bottom off the chair and 
get out there. 

7. See Wayne Miller s notes on this project in Appendices. 


During those times I was able to begin to get a feeling of what I was after. (You might be 
interested in seeing his [Ben Bums ] book, Nitty Gritty, A White Editor in Black Journalism 
[1996]. He refers to me there several times.) 

[tape interruption] 

Riess: This quote about the book, " many White Americans their first glimpse of the northern 
city s burgeoning post-war black community." 

Miller: That s from the flap of the book or something? 
Riess: Something, yes. 

Miller: Well, the viewer can t help but see this as being a thing of blacks, we re conditioned. But I d 
like to think that somehow or other they could look upon them just as the emotions and actions 
and drives that we all share. 

Riess: You mentioned somewhere that you knew Langston Hughes and Nelson Algren in Chicago. 
Was that around the same time? 

Miller: Oh yes, yes. I don t remember much about Langston. Joan tells me that he came out to the 
house and had dinner with us and spent time with us. 

Riess: Would you have met him because of this project? 

Miller: Yes. I met him through these gatherings and what not. I met him, probably, through Horace. 
I m not sure. As far as Nelson, I spent time with Nelson at his home. Nice fellow. I can t 
remember how I met him. 

Riess: It sounds like you were very well connected in Chicago. You knew the famous people. 

Miller: Not at the time, they were just people at the time. Nelson was interested in doing a book with 
my photographs. At that time he was also involved with activism and political groups that I 
think were using Nelson. I don t think he was a communist, but some communist groups were 
interested in Nelson, inviting him to give talks here and there. I went with him one time to a 
talk in the Bismarck Hotel, I think it was, in Chicago. I felt at that time that he was a dupe, as 
far as he didn t really know what it was all about. But he was going along, being a nice guy. 

The Market and a Gallery in New York 

Riess: Back to Steichen and the Museum of Modern Art, was he trying to show new photographers? 

Miller: Well, this first exhibit he showed was entitled Three Young Photographers, I believe. That 
was Leonard McComb and Homer Page and myself. I don t know, I m sure he had some 
feelings at that time, but I think his feelings developed as time went on as to what he was 
hoping to do. I can tit doesn t come to my mind. He did a series of exhibits there. I didn t 


keep track of them. But he included me in, I don t know, half a dozen of his first exhibits 

Riess: Does that mean that those particular prints went into the museum s collection? 

Miller: I don t think so, I don t know. When I was so busy doing things, I didn t pay any attention to 
what was going on there. I d find out that, "Oh my gosh, I m in that exhibit he s got going on." 
I wasn t blase about it, it was a case that other things were more important to me. And in 
hindsight, well, it was pretty swell to have done that, to have been involved in that. 

Riess: You weren t thinking about how this gave those images a certain market value? 
Miller: Never thought of it, never came up. People weren t buying photographs then. 

Well, I remember in 1954 or so I was chairman of the American Society of Magazine 
Photographers. Edward Weston wanted to sell photographs, so we arranged an evening for his 
photographs to be there, in New York. He wasn t there, I don t believe. And here was this 
great big box of photographs, all with little frames around them. And for $25 a piece, maybe 
some for $30. We sold quite a few of them. Eliot Elisofon bought quite a few, I know. I don t 
know how it all came out. I got a nice note from Weston, thanking me for it. 

Riess: Photographers didn t expect to have a market? 
Miller: I don t think we thought about it. 
Riess: Well, that s interesting. 

Miller: Maybe we did, but I certainly didn t. I was unaware of it. I mean, for Edward Weston to be 
selling his stuff for $25, it was the equivalent to standing outside the museum in the rain with 
an umbrella and showing your stuff on a push cart there, you know? 

Well, I wasn t part of it. If photographers did think about that, I wasn t a part of it. Limelight, 
the coffee shop down in the Villagewhat was her name? She had shows down there and tried 
to sell pictures? She married a Chinese painter and had a child. Helen Gee! She had a gallery 
that she made into a coffee shop where photographers could gather, and sell their materials, 
and have coffee. She built this up on her own. She had been a color re-toucher for magazines 
like Conde Nast and Vogue and that sort of thing. Very nice woman. She wrote a book. 8 

Those pictures were being sold there, and people would come in and she had all the leading 
photographers of the time then. They were just getting started, you know. Everything from 
Gene Smith to Gjon Mili to others. The pictures would be sold from the walls for $15, $25. 

Riess: And there was the gallery Photo-secession, Stieglitz s place? 
Miller: Yes, I guess that s right. I ve never been there. I don t know that history of any of that world. 

S.Helen Gee, Limelight: A Greenwich Village Photography Gallery and Coffeehouse in the Fifties, A 
Memoir, University of New Mexico Press, 1997. 

The Continued Value of the Project. Terkel Interview 

Riess: Talking about "The Way of Life of the Northern Negro," I would like, with some of the time 
we have today, your thoughts on how this project has taken on a new life and now new 
generations see things anew. 9 Recently you were in Chicago for two weeks around the 
publication and so on of your book. 10 

Miller: I was there four different times. 
Riess: It s interesting, isn t it, the life the book has? 

Miller: It s fascinating. The first exhibition was at a public library, the South Side of Chicago, nice 
exhibit space, and very close to where I made the photographs. And it was a lovely experience 
for me in that a hundred photographs were on the walls, and then I gave a talk to an audience, 
a large audience, and I think there were only two white faces in this large audience. 

Also there were some people in there who appeared in the photographs. Or their family had 
appeared in them. It was just like being with family, it was a lovely warm experience. I gave 
an hour presentation of slides, actually from the book, but I was able to add words to them as I 
thought of them, and refer to some of the people in the audience. 

The reception was just so great, because here are people whoit wasn t like talking to a 
museum group, these people knew the subject, and they liked the pictures, and the reason they 
liked them were real. I really liked it. I ve been involved with different groups, and I must say 
that my appreciation of who the audience is is not as warm as it might be because I think they 
arethey don t have any place else to go that night or that afternoon, and I just don t think they 
are really as concerned about the subject as they might be. That s just my reaction. 

But these people, they liked it. I think I may have mentioned another reason they liked it. One 
said, "We don t have scrap-books and this gives us a chance to understand what our parents 
life was like." Also the older people would say, "Now I can show the grandchildren what it 
was like." It had a nice feeling there. That was one area. 

This talk I m giving in Chicago in about ten days [November 2001], they ve got a panel on the 
Chicago South Side [Parkway] Community House, how important it was in Chicago." And 
I m going to show some pictures that I d made at the Chicago Community House. I m going 
to start weaving some in about how they did all these great things there. I showed it in the 
South Side of Chicago, where the Black Belt was, and the other end of Chicago, where the 
white folks live, and the rich people live, which is up at Evanston and Northwestern 
University. The audience was very receptive there too. 

I ll tell how in the director s apartment he was doing his best to throw parties for the sponsors 
and artists and what not how other things went on. And there I m going to show one of the 

9. Insert from Interview 7. 

IQ.Chicago s South Side, 1946-1948, Wayne F. Miller, foreword by Orville Schell and commentaries 
by Gordon Parks and Robert B. Stepto. University of California Press published in association with the 
Graduate School of Journalism, Center for Photography, University of California, Berkeley, 2000. 
1 1 .Inserted from Interview 6. 


pictures in the book, with the drink coming in, you know, and the guy leaning over the woman 
at the bar. 12 Also I ll say something about how one of the sponsors was very helpful to Horace 
Cayton in hanging the pictures on his walls, [laughter] 

Riess: Oh, this photograph of the woman hammering with the butt end of a revolver! 
Miller: I just thought it would be kind of fun to liven up this talk. 
Riess: It will be a slide show? 

Miller: I ll take the prints out and have slides made. It s not video or anything, just normal 35mm 
black and white slides. 

Riess: You don t feel that you should have to do that type of stuff yourself. 

Miller: Time is important, and it s much cheaper to have somebody else do it who is set up to do it, 
and he just does it. 

Riess: I am interested in that question of how much you as a photographer think that you are the only 
one who could do a good job. 

Miller: No, no, that s a lot of foolishness to think that way. Henri Cartier-Bresson sends his stuff out, 
he never touches it. He just has the prints made and doesn t have to see it from cradle to grave, 
you know. 

Riess: You get to see the exhibition differently hung each time. 

Miller: Oh yes, because of the different audience, different facilities. When it was at the other end of 
Chicago, the Block Museum [Northwestern University], it was beautifully hung. Much better 
than it was in the south side. They now had frames around it, and beautiful lighting and 
beautiful graphics of the words of different people related to the subject matter on the walls. It 
was an A-l deal. I also gave a talk there, and it was well-received. They had a panel there of 
people, mostly blacks that I d known. 

Then I went back for a book tour in Chicago, and gave talks at the Chicago Art Institute to 
students, and I had interviews on TV as well as radio. That s where Studs Terkel interviewed 

Riess: Studs Terkel interviewed you? 

Miller: He interviewed me for his public radio program. Did I ever show you that? 
[tape interruption] 

Miller: This was November 2000, 1 think. I was on this book tour, and it was arranged that I would be 
interviewed by Studs Terkel. I showed up at the studio, and I came up in the elevator and it 
opened on this little lobby, and the next elevator that came up, Studs Terkel was in it. He 

M.Chicago s South Side, 1946-1948, University of California Press, 2000, p. 50. 
13.End insert from Interview 6. 


came bouncing out of that elevator, just the most alive guy in the world, beautiful red vest and 
sparkling eyes. And he had my book under his arm. God, he s about four years older than I 
am, I think, and with such a sense of enthusiasm and excitement. His life has been spent 
interviewing Chicagoans, people from all over Chicago. Plus other people. He knows 
Chicago like the end of his nose. 

We went into the studio, and he had an assistant there with him, and he said, "I want to use this 
and I want to use that." He opened my book~[showing Riess] this is the book he had with 
himhe opened this book written all over with his notes preparing for this interview with me. 

Riess: Oh yes, he s underlined key things, he s got pictures marked. 

Miller: Much of it what he marked was references to music that he wanted to cut into this interview. 
Riess: "Ellington piece, Boogie Woogie." 

Miller: He knew all the names of these people, the music, and how important it was. Anyway, he was 
such a charming guy. He sat there with this book on his lap, and then I had a book on mine. 
He d call me to look at this page and that page, and he would make his remarks. I felt that this 
interview was a real, A-l performance. I was kind of like a foil for him to be able to talk about 
Chicago, and it s lovely, I ll give you a copy of this tape to listen to. He s just an exceptional 


Riess: How did he handle the fact that he didn t have visuals, that it was radio, not TV? 
Miller: When he talked about it, he made them come alive. 

I d been forewarned that if he does have some notes, that when the show s over, ask him if you 
can have them. So when it was over I asked him and he said, "Sure, take it," so he gave me 
this book and I replaced it with another one. 

Riess: Did he talk to you first about your background? 
Miller: He just didn t waste a moment, he went right into it. 

So that was another trip, that was the book tour. I can t seem to find my notes from that trip, 
but it was a very busy three or four days. Then I went back for the opening of the two shows, 
the South Side Community House and the Block Museum at Northwestern University. Also I 
had two shows out here before I went, one at Berkeley, at the Graduate School of Journalism, 
the other at the public library in the south side here in Oakland. Those two things, and then the 
book tour. 

Then I went back for the Chicago Arts Festival, which was a two-week happening. That was 
in November. And there I gave a couple of talks and interviews and those things. Prior to all 
this, in September I d gone to France for a show of the same material in Perpignan. 


Riess: All of which would make you think that book was the most important piece of work you had 


Miller: [laughs] In the last two years, yes. It seems to have been. 
Riess: But you wouldn t subscribe to that? 

Miller: Oh, sure I would, I ll settle for anything. "If the dinner s hot, let s eat it!" Photographically, it 
seems to have been the best package I ve done. 

Riess: Do you ever look at the book and wish you had photographed things differently? 

Miller: No. I ve been there, I m not going to reedit it. I worked very hard on it, making the selections 
for the book, so I got rid of a lot of those second thoughts in the process of editing. 14 

Riess: You ve talked to groups about this book. Do you find that there s a great gap in people s 
understanding? Or do you think the pictures close the gap? 

Miller: What I m struck by is the fact that people, they re interested in the time frame, how things were 
different then than they are now. And how photography tells them it was different than it is 
now. That, to me, is pretty important, to realize that photography has that ability to provide 
information that they re still unaware of what s happening, say in the black culture. 

Also the way that the times have changed in the ability for a photographer to move among 
groups of people. At that time I was unfettered and completely free, and today it s a measure 
of photography that people today are highly suspicious. "Why are you here?" "Are you from 
the government?" "Do you have some ulterior motive for doing this?" The sense of 
acceptance today is very low compared to what it was then. 

I m not talking about dealing with individuals, I don t think that changes much. But in a group. 
If I were to show up at a bar or if I were to show up in a public meeting I d be treated a lot 
differently today than I was then. I think it s because people are aware that photographs can be 
manipulated today to maybe hurt them, or expose them to something that is not right. In a 
way, we re talking about two things. We re talking about the development of our culture, and 
we re talking about the awareness of the camera and how it relates to that point in time. 

Riess: How could they distinguish you from a TV reporter? 

Miller: Yes, yes. Or my photographing children, which I loved to photograph. Today I d be highly 
suspect of being a pedophile. All kinds of little things. To me it s just terribly discouraging. 

Riess: Yes, that is terribly discouraging. 

Your first response, that there s so much information in a picture, that s very validating. It 
makes photography so important. 

Miller: That is the hallmark of photography, or the very essence of it, that if the material can be 
organized within the picture to be meaningful rather than just well, every photograph has 
some meaningful stuff in it, it doesn t have to be a meaningful photograph. If we have so 
much of it, or so little I think we have too much of it, that s why we can t focus on it, to grab 

14. End insert from Interview 7. 


it. In a book you re capturing the viewer. Not like television, watching a news program where 
the stuff comes and goes and you can make yourself another drink or go to the John while 
you re watching it, so the viewer is in charge and the viewer maybe doesn t care too much 
about the subject. 

I don t know, it s a deep subject. The deep subject. 

The West Coast. Viewed from the Time-Life Building 

Riess: Earlier, when we were talking about the Time-Life building and I said it was the center of the 
world, you said it was the world. Would you expand on that feeling? 

Miller: Well, the Time Life staff, the ones that I knew-and I didn t begin to know all of them, I only 
knew a few of them they by and large were prima donnas. They realized that they were 
different, and had been selected, and that they were the top of the heap. I think it hurt some of 
their abilities to do good journalism because of that. Some of the photographers would move 
into a situation and kind of take it over. 

Riess: You should name names if you can. 

Miller: I d rather not. Well, I will say one. Eliot Elisofon. He photographed the Pacific Islands, and 
he went from island to island. He demanded so much from these people in the way of setting 
up his photographs, in the way he made them, that he lost his welcome at one island after 
another. There were complaints made to thelet me get this righ I think UNESCO. I don t 
know. I may have this absolutely backwards, I shouldn t be talking about this other than I 
know the flap that took place. But he was really made a persona non-grata. Because he just 
went in and made these people his not slaves, but his subjects to make his pictures. And it 
was something to do with the woman who was working with him as a writer, whether her 
father was the UNESCO head or somebody big. It got all snarled up here, he got in a bad, bad 

But, anyway, photographers in some cases can impose themselves on people and use them. 
Which is just, in my book, is just not right. Especially for a news magazine. That s creating 
news. But I don t think he was doing news, he was doing an essay on the way of life of the 
Polynesians or the Pacific Ocean Islanders. 

I don t know what your question was. 
Riess: That sense of Time-Life being "the world." 

Miller: It was a self-centeredness. For example, it was difficultwe d laugh about it, but it seemed to 
be true unless a story had been written and published in the New York Times newspaper, we 
wouldn t expect to get an assignment on that subject. In other words, that it was felt that 
anything west of the Hudson River wasn t really worth photographing. This kind of an 


Riess: I d like to hear more about that attitude. You re saying that this is not just photography, this is 
news value. 

Miller: That s right, yes. I would say news value, and it doesn t have to be hard news. For example, I 
was responsible for many assignments out of the San Francisco area, which extended up into 
Oregon and Washington and some in Canada. Los Angeles had their own staff, they had half 
a dozen or more photographers down there. I was the only one here. And I found that I was 
doing an appreciable number of my stories east of the Mississippi River. In other words, they 
would give me assignments to go there and not it wasn t here. Most of the stuff happened 
back there, you know. The provincialism, I think, if you want to call it that, or narrow 
mindedness or snobbishness or whatever it might be, I was very sensitive to. But Los Angeles, 
there re obviously lots of exciting things to be done there. Oh gee. 

I walked into the picture editor s office, Ray Mackland s office, one day. He was leaning over 
his light table there looking at 35mm color slides. He explained to me that he was trying to 
make some decisions, trying to make some choices to take into Ed Thompson to make color 
selection. These pictures were all of pretty Hollywood starlets. I said, "Well, what are your 
choices here, Ray?" He led me to believe the reason he was dealing with these Hollywood 
starlets was because they had a hell of a good one last week and he felt another one might be 

This kind of thinking kind of bowls you over. You think, God almighty, it s only ten o clock in 
the morning, I better get a drink! 

Riess: How about covering the return of the Japanese Americans from the camps back to the San 
Francisco Bay Area? Was that a story? 

Miller: I don t know about that. I should imagine that that wasn t too important to the New York 

office. Hell, they didn t see any Japanese Americans on the way to work that morning. And 
probably very few of them, if any, were working in the office. So it couldn t be very 
important, I just don t know. 

Riess: And the University of California, with all its Nobel Prize winners and accelerators? 

Miller: Well, really the important things in California are happening in Hollywood. And we ve done 
enough on California, after those last two show biz articles we did, you know? 

Riess: They must have liked hippies. 
Miller: Well, that had a little pizzazz to it. They couldn t avoid that. 

Riess: Speaking of people who had their run-ins with Life magazine, how about Gene Smith? I read 
that he kept working and quitting and then starting again and quitting? 

Miller: Well, Gene was an exceptional photographer and a very committed guy. And the problems 
with Gene and Life magazine and other magazines came about because his drum beat is 
different than theirs. 

I remember, again going back to Ed Thompson, I walked into his office and he said, "Look at 
this!" He held up a sheaf of papers, I don t know, ten, twelve, fifteen pages, "A letter from 


Gene Smith telling me how we ought to handle his Pittsburgh story." He said, "My god, I 
don t have time to read this stuff!" Gene felt, perhaps rightfully so, that the material is terribly 
important. But it was a little difficult for him to find people to share it to that degree. 

I kind of remember that Bruce Downs of Popular Photography, who finally published quite a 
bit of this Pittsburgh story he did, also had real problems on the layout and the number of 
pictures to include and what not. You know, a big magazine like that had its own 
commitments and own responsibilities and all. The values shared by the editors and the 
photographer are not necessarily the same. I can tI don t know what else to say about that. 

Riess: Okay. Now, to get you out of Chicago, you ve said you felt you were doing things over and 
over again? 

Miller: The problem was not there, the problem was in my own head, I m sure, because I just couldn t 
see things that were exciting to me. I couldn t figure out how to do them enthusiastically. Call 
it the impatience of youth or what you want to call it, but I wanted out. 

I talked to Life magazine, and Wilson Hicks, who was the major editor there in charge of 
photography. I asked Wilson if it would make a difference to him where I moved, whether it 
be East Coast or West Coast. He said, "No, no difference." I d been offered ever since World 
War II I d been offered a staff job at Life. And as I told you, I d turned that down. So we made 
an arrangement that I d work out here at San Francisco on a retainer agreement. So that s how 
I worked out here. 

It was a contract, in fact, and it enabled me to work for other publications as well as Life, and 
also I could turn down things that way. I didn t want to come out here and be a staff 
photographer and be at the mercy, be at the end of somebody s string, I could be pulled out. In 
fact, it was said that whenever a Life photographer became comfortable where he was assigned 
they d move him; once he bought a house they d move him. 


[Interview 4: August 29, 2001]## 


itv in California 

jgain why you came out here from Chicago? 

excited by the kinds of things that I was doing and also I 
Jon of assignments and subject matter. 

Jo many different things that I found that I was just not it 
j| the Guggenheim and I d finished a period of working on 
ies and I just felt that I wanted a change of world. 

were going in photography? 

to use my energies in stories that were more satisfying 
I, strangely enough, became somewhat depressing to me. 

iof of an automobile and see for six hundred miles in 
jine it was gray and overcast. The world seemed kind of 
nd I wasn t excited by the. It was either too hot or too 
1 Jme. Actually, while we were there for three years after 
Dimmers and the coldest winters and I was unaware of any 
i 4 monotony that I found. I wanted to get out. 

, "Whatever you want to do, fine." I talked to Life 
i jpn t care where you want to go, we ll work out 
I jd go to New York or I could go to the West Coast." I felt 
-^e a repetition, really, of much of what Chicago had. So I 

mm in in mi imMMp 



Miller: No, no, he didn t say that. I don t know. Horace Bristol, one of our fellows in our Navy unit, 
he knew her. He may have mentioned it. I just don t know where the name came from. I 
knew her work from FSA. Anyway, when we thought about coming out here, literally she was 
the only person we knew. 

We got a room in a San Francisco hotel and Joan and I spent two weeks out here. I guess we 
drove out. And we took a map and made concentric circles on it, and figured out how far it 
took to get where and what was it like there, what were the schools like. And if we lived there, 
where could we go conveniently to do other things other than just live there. 

We found that going down the Peninsula south of San Francisco, at that time traffic was not 
good, and also it was kind of an older community, older communities. It didn t seem like a 
nice place for children. North of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, we d have to 
pay a toll every day going across that bridge, and to get into Marin County, it wasn t as well 
developed as it might be. Also, when we got there, the communities were a little too rich for 
us, or upper scale for us, where we could be living. 

We looked at East Bay, Berkeley and Oakland, and finally behind those cities in Orinda. And 
we found out here that this was pretty swell for us. We liked it because the summers would be 
warmer and the winters would be colder. Right in Oakland and Berkeley, the weather was 
softened by the bay, so it was not as great a change physically. And also, the most important 
thing was the schools out here were considered exceptional. There was a waiting list of 
teachers that wanted to teach here. 

It was a comparatively new community, and many younger people here. And also from 
Orinda, it s on the way to the Sierras, and to the capital, Sacramento, and the fanning 
community in the Sacramento Valley. And proximity to Oakland was important. I thought 
that I could develop some projects where I could photograph some city life, urban life. 
Oakland was attractive to me. I must say in hindsight, I never did do anything in Oakland. 
But at that tune it was important. 

And also, right north of Oakland is Berkeley, the University of California, which at that time 
was only fifteen minutes away from Orinda. That was to me as exciting. Kind of a nerve 
center there. Just beyond the university a few minutes, why, Dorothea Lange s home was. So 
that s the long story of why we settled in Orinda. 

Riess: That s an exceptional and accurate analysis. You could do that on your own just by sniffing 

Miller: Yes. We found out how long it took to go into San Francisco. I talked to Life, they said, "Fine, 
you can work out of San Francisco, you do the work for us there." This [Orinda] was a good 
location for that. It worked out. 

Riess: This hill that you re living on now was undeveloped? 

Miller: Well, at that time I understand that Orinda had been, before the war, kind of a summer escape 
place for people who lived in San Francisco who wanted to get out of the fog. It was warmer 
over here, and they had a little summer home kind of a thing. After the war it began to be 
further developed where these seasonal homes became permanent, and the increasing 
population, it was available space so it was beginning to be developed. It wasn t a primitive 


place, it was quite sophisticated even from early on, as I understand it. But gentle as far as the 
number of people goes. 

Riess: Did you drive around with a realtor? 

Miller: Well, the first thing we did is we rented a home, a spec home that hadn t sold. Then when we 
decided we wanted to live here we took that home. And from that home we started looking 
around, driving around, and finding out where we d like to be. I don t think we had a realtor, 
maybe we did. 

This area, at that time, was grazing land for cattle and there were very few trees. Now it s 
covered with trees. A lot of them are exotic trees, a lot of Monterey pines, and some spots are 
oak. We have a lot of oaks here, but the early pictures I have, we only have one little clump of 
oaks, which we still have. Since then, those oaks have thrown acoms and we have more oaks. 
The ranchers, I guess, or the people who were grazing cattle here, probably burned it off to 
keep the grass coming on. Anyway, now it s filled with trees and we ve changed the 
environment here appreciably by just living here, people living here in this community. 

Architectural Decisions 

Riess: How did you find your architect? 

Miller: I don t know, actually. I know that we talked to everybody we could. We went and saw 

Bernard Maybeck in his home in the Berkeley hills. As we approached his home there, I recall 
there was a gate. Mrs. Maybeck came to the gate, and the first thing she said is, "Do you 
smoke?" She had been, you could say, traumatized by the earlier Berkeley Hills fire, in 1923. 
We assured her we didn t smoke, and then we were invited into this very small home. 

We were struck by the fact that this home had siding that consisted of burlap bags that had 
been dipped in wet cement and hung up on the sides of the building. So it made a fireproof 
siding. We walked into the house and sat in the very small living room, or what you want to 
call it, and there was no place to sit. There were a couple of chairs and a couch, but everything 
was covered in papers and books. Mr. Maybeck cleared things off so that Joan could sit down, 
I could sit down. 

We talked to him about we were interested in him designing a house for us. He said, "Okay, 
I ll do that," but he said, "You ll have to agree that it won t cost more than ten thousand dollars 
and that you ll do a lot of the work yourself." 

He handed us a large sheet of drawing paper, I guess it was newsprint, and a piece of charcoal. 
He said, "You draw some of the feelings you have about a house you d like to have and come 
back and we ll talk further." So that was it. But I was not intending to spend time on a house, 
building a house, I wanted to get active in photography because I needed to support my family. 
So, we didn t pay much further attention to that. 

We talked with other architects, we talked to every leading architect in the area at the time. 
[William] Wurster, I guess it was, and we talked with, I don t know, the top, big names of that 


know where the refrigerator came from. Anyway, it was downstairs on the ground, literally on 
the ground. We ran a cord down there to take care of it. We lived here while they were 
finishing the rest of the house. 

At one point, one of the children had a cold or something, was kind of sick, nothing really 
serious, but a pediatrician came out on a house call, believe it or not. Very nice man, Dr. 
Ornduff. He had to come over from an adjoining lot and climb down a hill here. We had a 
little ladder built there so that you could get down. But there was no asphalt here, it was 
winter time, and it was wet and the ground was sticky. He came up here and checked out the 
child, and we noticed when he left he only had one shoe on! He told us that he had lost it on 
the way over, he had gotten stuck in the adobe. Those were the kinds of conditions that existed 

Riess: Did you find that there was a kind of "like" community of people who had left where they 
were and had come to Orinda? 

Miller: Yes, I think so. I think if you call the United States a nation of immigrants, why Orinda was 
certainly a village, at that time, of immigrants. There were lots of young children here, young 
families, and it was just a delightful area because of all this open space. 

Across the street from our lot there was a space of about five acres that was completely open. 
There had been a little hill there that had been bulldozed down. It was owned by a man by the 
name of Bones Remmer, and Bones Remmer was known as the local gambling boss. He ran a 
gaming house down at the Orinda Crossroads. When he had this property up here and 
bulldozed off the knoll it was for a home site. The neighbors, or the people around in the 
greater Orinda area, learned about it and they protested, because they felt he was going to turn 
it into a casino of sorts. So it lay dormant for several years. Finally the IRS came in, the US 
government came in, to confiscate it because of back payment of taxes. They couldn t do it, 
because evidently a sister owned a fraction, one or two percent of the property, so they couldn t 
foreclose it. 

As a result, we had this marvelous open space around for many, many years. It was great for 
flying kites. In fact, for our youngest daughter Dana, we bought a quarter horse for her and 
kept it in our back yard here where our garden is now. She used to go out there and ride with 
her horse. The horse was pregnant when we bought it, so eventually we had two of them out 
there riding around. It was just great fun. This was a lovely, idyllic world that doesn t seem to 
exist anymore, at least to my knowledge. 

Riess: Well, you think of it as the world of the fifties, also. 

Miller: And that s what I captured, I think to a degree, in my book The World is Young. I 
photographed that; that was a slice of that time. 

Working from a California Base 

Riess: You had to jumpstart yourself as a photographer. Was it hard? 


Miller: No, not really. I had assignments. That first year out here, the first six months we spent here 
in California, I did a lot of Life assignments. Now an assignment doesn t mean a great big 
essay, it may be one day or two days, or a week or two weeks. But in 1949, in six months I did 
nineteen stories for Life. And 50, 51, 52, 53, 1 did a total of 150 stories for them. So there 
was a lot of activity for me, plus other things I was doing, see, for other magazines. 

Riess: You said that originally the magazines really didn t cover the West Coast, there wasn t a 
"story" out here. But when you got yourself out here, you found that there was? 

Miller: In looking for other work to do, I found that there were no magazines out here. Sunset 

magazine was here. All the other magazines were back in New York. So it meant that I had to 
have contacts back there in order to keep in touch with them. 


Miller: I didn t want to be that dependant on Life. That s why I did not accept a staff position with 
Life, I didn t want to be on the end of their string. I wanted to be related to them, and I was 
highly appreciative of that relationship. But I wanted to be able to have more freedom to do 
whatever might come up I d like to do. 

But the point I m trying to make here, and I think I said it before, is that once a staff 
photographer bought a home, he was transferred to another location. For example, I remember 
the story about Peter Stackpole. He was out here, he was born and raised in the Bay Area. He 
was working for Life, he was one of first Life photographers. He eventually moved to the Los 
Angeles area and became one of the stalwarts down there. He was very, very interested in 
sailing and boats. I think that Peter had two little sailboatslittle, I mean you can t make them 
too little. They were pretty good size, actually. They wanted to move him back to New York. 
He said, "I can t do that, I ve got all these things here. I can t leave my boats." They said, 
"We ll move them." Well, anyway, Life magazine moved those two sailboats back to the East 
Coast for Peter in order to get him back there for a while. 

Riess: Not deliberately, but that was often the case? 

Miller: I think deliberately, that was the understanding. It wasn t written out, but among the staff they 
felt that there was a conscious or a knowing desire to keep their people on edge. To keep them 
alert and realize they re dependent on Life so they would do as the boss said it should be done. 
Now, whether that was true or not, I don t know, but that was the common understanding. So, 
I wanted to be more secure by being able to say no. 

Riess: You made your own contacts here? 

Miller: Yes. You see, previously in Chicago I had worked for many different magazines. So I did have 
contacts. And it worked out, I did some other things for other magazines. But it was still hard, 
because I m not interested in selling things or keeping in touch with people to keep the pot 
boiling, with relationships with other magazines. So I d become lazy. 

Also, you see, I d received a monthly retainer from Life, whether I worked or not. If they 
printed more stories page-wise than my retainer amounted to, I would be paid up and above 
that. My retainer was modest, it was four hundred dollars a month, but that was enough to 
keep you going if you had some other things going, you see. Plus the pages, and I had quite a 


know where the refrigerator came from. Anyway, it was downstairs on the ground, literally on 
the ground. We ran a cord down there to take care of it. We lived here while they were 
finishing the rest of the house. 

At one point, one of the children had a cold or something, was kind of sick, nothing really 
serious, but a pediatrician came out on a house call, believe it or not. Very nice man, Dr. 
Ornduff. He had to come over from an adjoining lot and climb down a hill here. We had a 
little ladder built there so that you could get down. But there was no asphalt here, it was 
winter time, and it was wet and the ground was sticky. He came up here and checked out the 
child, and we noticed when he left he only had one shoe on! He told us that he had lost it on 
the way over, he had gotten stuck in the adobe. Those were the kinds of conditions that existed 

Riess: Did you find that there was a kind of "like" community of people who had left where they 
were and had come to Orinda? 

Miller: Yes, I think so. I think if you call the United States a nation of immigrants, why Orinda was 
certainly a village, at that time, of immigrants. There were lots of young children here, young 
families, and it was just a delightful area because of all this open space. 

Across the street from our lot there was a space of about five acres that was completely open. 
There had been a little hill there that had been bulldozed down. It was owned by a man by the 
name of Bones Remmer, and Bones Remmer was known as the local gambling boss. He ran a 
gaming house down at the Orinda Crossroads. When he had this property up here and 
bulldozed off the knoll it was for a home site. The neighbors, or the people around in the 
greater Orinda area, learned about it and they protested, because they felt he was going to turn 
it into a casino of sorts. So it lay dormant for several years. Finally the IRS came in, the US 
government came in, to confiscate it because of back payment of taxes. They couldn t do it, 
because evidently a sister owned a fraction, one or two percent of the property, so they couldn t 
foreclose it. 

As a result, we had this marvelous open space around for many, many years. It was great for 
flying kites. In fact, for our youngest daughter Dana, we bought a quarter horse for her and 
kept it in our back yard here where our garden is now. She used to go out there and ride with 
her horse. The horse was pregnant when we bought it, so eventually we had two of them out 
there riding around. It was just great fun. This was a lovely, idyllic world that doesn t seem to 
exist anymore, at least to my knowledge. 

Riess: Well, you think of it as the world of the fifties, also. 

Miller: And that s what I captured, I think to a degree, in my book The World is Young. I 
photographed that; that was a slice of that time. 

Working from a California Base 

Riess: You had to jumpstart yourself as a photographer. Was it hard? 


Miller: No, not really. I had assignments. That first year out here, the first six months we spent here 
in California, I did a lot of Life assignments. Now an assignment doesn t mean a great big 
essay, it may be one day or two days, or a week or two weeks. But in 1949, in six months I did 
nineteen stories for Life. And 50, 51, 52, 53, 1 did a total of 150 stories for them. So there 
was a lot of activity for me, plus other things I was doing, see, for other magazines. 

Riess: You said that originally the magazines really didn t cover the West Coast, there wasn t a 
"story" out here. But when you got yourself out here, you found that there was? 

Miller: In looking for other work to do, I found that there were no magazines out here. Sunset 

magazine was here. All the other magazines were back in New York. So it meant that I had to 
have contacts back there in order to keep in touch with them. 


Miller: I didn t want to be that dependant on Life. That s why I did not accept a staff position with 
Life, I didn t want to be on the end of their string. I wanted to be related to them, and I was 
highly appreciative of that relationship. But I wanted to be able to have more freedom to do 
whatever might come up I d like to do. 

But the point I m trying to make here, and I think I said it before, is that once a staff 
photographer bought a home, he was transferred to another location. For example, I remember 
the story about Peter Stackpole. He was out here, he was born and raised in the Bay Area. He 
was working for Life, he was one of first Life photographers. He eventually moved to the Los 
Angeles area and became one of the stalwarts down there. He was very, very interested in 
sailing and boats. I think that Peter had two little sailboatslittle, I mean you can t make them 
too little. They were pretty good size, actually. They wanted to move him back to New York. 
He said, "I can t do that, I ve got all these things here. I can t leave my boats." They said, 
"We ll move them." Well, anyway, Life magazine moved those two sailboats back to the East 
Coast for Peter in order to get him back there for a while. 

Riess: Not deliberately, but that was often the case? 

Miller: I think deliberately, that was the understanding. It wasn t written out, but among the staff they 
felt that there was a conscious or a knowing desire to keep their people on edge. To keep them 
alert and realize they re dependent on Life so they would do as the boss said it should be done. 
Now, whether that was true or not, I don t know, but that was the common understanding. So, 
I wanted to be more secure by being able to say no. 

Riess: You made your own contacts here? 

Miller: Yes. You see, previously in Chicago I had worked for many different magazines. So I did have 
contacts. And it worked out, I did some other things for other magazines. But it was still hard, 
because I m not interested in selling things or keeping in touch with people to keep the pot 
boiling, with relationships with other magazines. So I d become lazy. 

Also, you see, I d received a monthly retainer from Life, whether I worked or not. If they 
printed more stories page -wise than my retainer amounted to, I would be paid up and above 
that. My retainer was modest, it was four hundred dollars a month, but that was enough to 
keep you going if you had some other things going, you see. Plus the pages, and I had quite a 


few published pages in those times. So, it worked out all right. But having to work that hard 
on things you weren t particularly interested in was where the discontent began to build, you 

Riess: What s an example of something that would be particularly uninteresting? 

Miller: [getting up] Well, here in my files, here s one. I had to photograph an Episcopal convention, 
which was photographing formalities and people getting together and talking from platforms. 

Riess: And they were not interested in an ironic view of the event? 

Miller: No. Well, let s put it this way. I didn t come up with the idea of doing something like that. 

They may have been interested in it if I had suggested it or provided some interesting way of 
treating it, but I wasn t interested in that sort of thing. Their interest and my interest weren t 

Here s another one, a fellow by the name of Rudolph Skarda, a researcher at the University of 
California Medical School. And he was able to inject solutions into the circulatory system of 
cadavers so that he could remove from the body the circulatory system so it came out as a 
networkbeautiful things, really. Preservation of the circulatory system so that they could be 
hung up like spider webs. It was just beautiful. 

This sort of thing, that s interesting, sure. And I could get involved and interested in that. But 
after I get done with it, what have I done? It didn t seem to be meaningful to me other than just 
a nice exercise and kind of fun doing it for a while. But I wasn t going anywhere with this. It 
wasn t in a field of photography or area of interest that I could pursue further. 

As I look at [the list of] these things, they all look pretty interesting. Here s an unemployment 
story in Pasco, Washington. That was fabulous, I had some nice pictures out of that. That was 
1950. Here s another one about the "war scare" I m using the titles of the assignments. A 
marine unit is being called up, this is 1950, and people are buying things off the shelves, 
worried that there may be shortages. This kind of thing. Some of these things are like 
newspaper assignments, where all they wanted was a one shot deal. The subject didn t merit 
more than one shot. You know when you re doing it. 

Assig ments: Lovaltv Oath. Science. Sallv Stanford 

Miller: Here s one I thought was pretty thin, but by golly, it worked out quite well. The California 
Loyalty Oath, and this was in 1950. 

Riess: That was a big story! 

Miller: A big story, and it was a little hard to get hold of it. I came up with the idea of finding one of 
these professors to use as a vehicle. 

This loyalty oath was such that you can understand that the faculty just kept dancing around it. 
They didn t want to come out publicly and take a stand because they were insecure. 


Everybody avoided being up and front. There was nobody up on the speaker s platform, so to 

Well, I attended the Board of Regents meeting, and I attended the faculty meetings. I d show 
up with my camera, and these people, well they didn t rush up to be in front of the camera. I 
finally found one person, Professor [Edward Chace] Tolman I think it was, and I went to a 
meeting at the [William and Catherine Bauer] Wurster home where some of these people were 
meeting and talking about what to do about this. And they had their wives with them, because 
this decision was going to affect the future of these people s acceptance in the community. 

Riess: You were following more the non-signers? 

Miller: Non-signers, that s correct, you re right. They had this meeting and I knew this professor was 
going to be there, so I went there to talk to him. I talked to him at that meeting in the home, 
and I said in order to make a statement that can be understood we need to have a person of 
impeccable credentials to make that statement, and I hoped that he would allow me to 
photograph him and use his positions to make the statement. I really put the arm on him, and 
he finally agreed. 

Before I left that home, his wife came out and said, "You know what you ve done, you can t do 
this to him. You can t. It ll expose him to pressures that are unfair," and so forth. She was 
really very upset. Well, I didn t really answer her, I couldn t answer her, and I went ahead and 
did the story. And there s one picture I made of him walking off the center of campus down 
through this arch going on the way over to the Faculty Club. And the story ran, and that one 
picture was there, plus others. Later I got a call from her and she said that she wanted to be 
able to use that picture for a Christmas card. I was forgiven. 

So I liked that kind of a story, where I could get involved with something that was important 
and needed telling. And if I didn t do it, maybe it wouldn t get done. This is the sort of thing I 
was drawn to, rather than just something which might be a little thing, politics or something, 
which is neither here nor there. 

Here s one on the taking of the census, following a census taker around in San Francisco and 
being sure to get the hills in the picture or the bridge in the picture. Well, you know, that s not 
much of a story, but these are the kinds of things that I had to do. I liked doing them, it kept 
me busy. 

Riess: A lot of stories are pot boilers, but somebody has to do it, sort of. 

Miller: Well, that s understandable, and I shouldn t be fussy if they re offered to me, but I didn t want 
them to become a way of life so that s all my life was, boiling pots. 

Riess: Did you go down to Hollywood? There was a Life L.A. office? 

Miller: Oh, that was a big office. I told you the story about Philippe Halsman going down there, 
coming from New York to photograph the pretty girls for the covers? 

I did go down there once in a while, but seldom. They had four or five staff photographers 
down there who were very busy, I m sure. But on the science end, while I was out here I ended 


up photographing all the Nobel Laureates here in California. And I got involved in the peace 
conference in 51, the Japanese peace conference. 

[continuing to refer to list] I photographed Sally Stanford. She was a madam who had a home 
on Pine Street [1 144 Pine] to which she invited delegates to this peace conference. She offered 
them discounts if they patronized her house. Then I photographed her when she became 
mayor of Sausalito, and she had a bar there. Later I met her back at her home on Pine Street 
when she had married Bob Gump? 

Riess: One of the Gump s store Gumps? 

Miller: Yes, not the father, but one of the sons of the family. The understanding was that she resented 
the establishment so much she wanted to give them a poke in the nose. 

Anyway, I met them back at that apartment the morning they had just driven back from Reno. 
There she was, big flamboyant gown and wearing an orchid on her shoulder. She was kind of 
a short, chunky woman to begin with, so it didn t quite fit. Here s I guess his name was Bob 
Gump and I asked them if they wanted to have a wedding photograph. 

I said how nice it would be if we could move the chair over here and Sally could sit down there 
and Bob could stand behind her with a arm on the chair. Behind them was a marvelous mirror 
and kind of candelabra stuff. It was a nice 1 890 picture, I felt. I made the picture, and Life 
used it, a full half page picture and a half page text, vertical. 

I didn t see them again for some years until one time I took some visiting Life magazine or 
Time magazine people for dinner over to Valhalla, Sally Stanford s restaurant in Sausalito. We 
were all seated at a round table. Sally was there and Bob Gump was on the far side of me at 
this big circular table, and other people were scattered around. We re sitting there drinking and 
eating food and all. Towards the end of the dinner, all of a sudden Gump stands up and points 
his finger at me and reaches across the table and says, "Now I remember you, you re that soft- 
con man who made that picture!" It had evidently been eating on him all those years. Soft- 
con man. 

Riess: It seems to me there was a story in California itself. You could sell a magazine with California 
on the cover the way you could sell Time magazine or People magazine with Princess Diana 
on the cover. Wasn t California an object of curiosity to much of the country? 

Miller: Well, it might be that I was too close to it to see it. 

I see also here several mentions of war stories I was doing. Here s one on the Korean War 
dead coming home ["The first dead from the Korean War, San Francisco, 1951"], and here s 
another of an army sergeant returning. "First marine division homecoming." And Mac Arthur 
returning ["General MacArthur on his return from Korea, San Francisco, 1951"]. So there was 
that sort of thing. I think I understand your point, this bigger story you re talking about, but it s 
a little hard to compete with MacArthur returning, or some of these newsy things, you see. 
And I got some good pictures out of some of these things, I was very pleased with some things 
I was able to get out of it. 

15. The Fifties, Photographs of America, Magnum Photos, Pantheon, 1985. See examples. 

Assignments: Farmer s Wife. Javne Mansfield. John Wayne 

Riess: You know this book? 
Miller: Yes, The Fifties. 

Riess: I put post-its on all your work in here. There s such a variety, and it s not just California, of 

Miller: Well, this one ["Saying Grace, Lebo, Kansas, 1950"], I wanted to do a story on the farmer s 

wife. I always thought it would be nice to show the woman who s behind these core values of 
the United States, or our way of life. Because I remember my great-aunt, I d go to spend some 
time with her in Casey, Illinois, central Illinois, on a farm. And she d be up at four o clock in 
the morning or so and by the time breakfast came along at 5:30 you d smell that new bread and 
everything was going. She was just always there, and doing all the things, feeding the 
chickens and all. 

And during the day my great uncle would be out in the fields. They only had a couple hundred 
acres, but I remember him coming home at noon to eat and after lunch he d lie on the bare 
floor to straighten his back out. He didn t have a tractor, he had a team of mules. All this goes 
on, and the work she would do sitting on the porch snapping the beans and shelling the peas 
and all this. In fact, behind the wood stove there was a box of corn cobs, soft corn cobs. On 
the way out to the privy you d reach in and get a soft corn cob. The slick pages of Sears and 
Roebuck are one thing, but a soft corn cob is much better. 

Well, I had that memory, and I talked to Life and said I wanted to do a story on a farmer s wife. 
They though it was great. Then it kind of cooled off and everybody had forgotten about it until 
one day I got a telegram saying, "Wayne, we just found your farmer s wife." I was no longer 
thinking about this, I d cooled. But I went back to Lebo, Kansas to photograph the farmer s 
wife. They had found a farmer s wife for me. 

This farmer s wife lived in a very nice modern home. And by nine o clock she was all dressed 
up with her fine dress and hat and sparkling glasses, driving off to the first of a couple of 
meetings that she was having with women, or community activities. It was true that she did 
some of the farm chores around the place that I d remembered, but she was not my farmer s 
wife. It was a real fiasco. I did my best, but I couldn t get that toothpaste through the keyhole, 
it just wouldn t go. 

This picture here, "Saying Grace," was one of those from that take. And I believe this one also 
is from "The Farmer s Wife." This is a community activity, with a little child there singing, 
flag in the background. And here is one ["Flag Day Ceremony, Orinda, 1956"] from my 
children s book effort, The World Is Young. 

[paging through the book] This sort of thing, here s one. You see this is 1959, this is making a 
movie in New York City. Living here and going to New York City to make a movie, covering 
that. This is downstairs here, the boy ["Backyard, Orinda, 1954"]. Here s Berkeley, the 
installation of Clark Kerr as president [1958]. 

Riess: Covering the campus, you probably had some ruckuses to cover. 


Miller: Well, this wasn t an assignment, I just went over there to do it. And they have an interesting 
picture, if you want to be maybe nasty, a picture of the nuclear physicist who was the father of 
the hydrogen bomb, the Hungarian, Teller. I ve got a picture of him kind of crouched down 
and looking very sinister. 

Then these pictures of Jayne Mansfield. Did I tell you about Jayne Mansfield? Nice woman. 
She was married to this guy Mickey Hargitay. He was a body builder. Each of them were so 
proud of their bodies-only in Hollywood could those people be. In one part of her home, 
Jayne Mansfield s home, the wall was just covered in magazine covers showing her in every 
possible state of undress. 

I went down there to photograph her getting ready for her wedding. And I went to the 
dressmaker s where she was being fitted for a gown. As you know, at some of these things 
they use a cheesecloth [muslin] kind of thing you put on first to get the fittings and to rough it 
out. She had put this thing on and came out to the little fitting room-big fitting room actually. 

She came out, and on the way out she looked into a mirror and gasped, and she turned and 
immediately went back into the dressing room. And she called, "Wayne, do you have a 
handkerchief?" I pulled a handkerchief out and gave it to her. She came out again, and here it 
was covering her crotch when she came out. I don t know if she was worried about the pubic 
hair being brunette or what it was, but anyway, [laughter] 


Miller: Before the wedding I was photographing in her home with her mother packing her suitcase. 
Jayne and Mickey were going to go off for a honeymoon someplace. I walked into this 
bedroom where they had everything, like a normal bedroom, you get the stuff all messed up 
trying to get stuff into a suitcase, or sorting things out. She had the scantiest costume on you 
could imagine, and I said, "Well, Jayne, do you want to put on some clothes or something, a 
dress, so I can make some pictures?" "Oh," she said, "Oh, yes." So with her mother I stepped 
outside, and when I came back in she had on something that was even more exposed! Kind of 
funny things you run into in this sort of work. 

And then here s one of John Wayne [on the set of "The Alamo," 1959]. 
Riess: Yes, now why were you doing John Wayne? 
Miller: He was making a movie called "The Alamo." 
Riess: Did you go to Texas for that? 

Miller: Yes, Breckinridge, Texas. Movie companies would hire photographers like myself, pay us a 
substantial amount of money, to come down and photograph anything we wanted to 
photograph. We had contacts with the magazines, and we could produce things that the 
magazines might run, but if their [film industry] public relations people did it they wouldn t 
run them. 

On this particular case, here it is, it was going to be out in the middle of the Texas range. So 
while I was down there I called home and had our son David, who was about thirteen or 
fourteen years old then, come down. He spent about a week with me on the set, and I got some 


nice pictures with him. He loved working with the special effects people. They d go out and 
together they d put bags of smoky gunpowder in the mouths of the cannon, so when they d go 
off they d make a big thing. And they d plant explosives here and there to go off. I have one 
picture of him with this make-believe horse, this papier mache horse, he s got it on his back. 
Being around these men and their Texas costumes and all, he loved it. 

Riess: Then did you have to market the pictures? 
Miller: Well, I d send them back to Magnum, and they would make the contacts. 

In some cases for these things they would make suggestions, they d like to see something on 
certain people in the cast, they were interested in that person, so I d, maybe, spend a little time 
focusing on them. 

Riess: You mean the magazine? 

Miller: The magazine, yes. They would say, "We understand you re photographing this movie, and 
we re interested in some pictures of Fred Astaire or Ave Gardner," or something of that nature. 
So, I did several of those things. 

Assignments: Korean War. Migrant Workers. Thoughts on News and Privacy 

Miller: [looking at the book] "Recruiting," that s another one of those war situations, 1950. 

"Swearing-in ceremonies." And here s where the returning marines this was a young guy 
["Returned Korea veteran in bar, San Francisco, 1951"] that I was following around. I 
followed him around to a bar and made this picture which I kind of like, the way it worked out. 
But that s a grab shot. It s so well-lit it looks phony. 

It kind of goes back to that early photojournalism imagery which is maybe too well lit, I guess. 
Riess: What do you mean, the "early photojournalism imagery?" 

Miller: Where we would use flash in synchro sunlight to fill in the shadows. In hindsight, this was too 
slick. That particular picture is a little slick. If that had been made using existing light from 
the bar and all well, let s put it this way, everything just seems to be right. The guy s hair is 
combed, he s too neat. 

Riess: Yes, yes. So that s suspect? 

Miller: I did a story for Life on the bugs up in the lake up there, Clear Lake. They had a great 

infestation of gnats, and it kind of shut down all the activity there. It was just too much. So I 
went up there to photograph it, and I photographed the chemical people with their drums of 
chemicals in the back of these boats, taking it out and putting it into the water. I got an 
airplane, they took the door off of it, I strapped myself in and they took me around so I could 
photograph it. And I got some very nice pictures of it, I did a pretty good bang-up job on it. 


Life didn t use it, and I was a little disappointed. I learned that they felt that it looked too pat, 
too good, it didn t look real. That s my point. Sometimes things are too good from some 
editors points of view, they don t look right. 

Here s "Caskets coming back, war dead from the Korean war," more Korean war, yes. 

I like news stories, I just love them. Because you don t know what s going to happen, and as a 
photographer, if you re doing a story, you have to have a beginning and you have to have an 
end. You don t know what the end is going to be. And you don t know what s happening, you 
have to develop it as you re there, and looking at the subject and feeling it, and hearing it, 
being pushed around and all. You have to find out, what is the common thread here? What is 
it that I could say? To me, I find it exciting as can be. The test is just immense. You know 
you ve got to pull it off. 

An example of this is, and it s during the fifties, here he is, "Marine from the Fifth Regiment 
coming home, 1951." I went to San Francisco, down to the piers where the ship was coming 
in. In fact, I d gone out the night before to this marine ship. I went out to the pilot boat, the 
Aviso, spent the night on it. Next morning I woke up, and you know the water between 
Golden Gate Bridge and the Farallon Islands is known as the Potato Patch? It s very rough. I 
woke up on this Aviso, and I had been all night in this Potato Patch, just waiting for the ship to 
come in. The first thing that greets me in the morning is breakfast, pork chops and fried 
potatoes and black, black coffee. Ugh. I m not a sailor when it comes to that sort of thing. My 
stomach and I are enemies. 

In some cases, with other photographers you re being pushed and pulled, and you ve got to 
fight even for a camera space, and you think to yourself, "Is this where I should be or should I 
be someplace else to tell this story?" And if I m making pictures from this point of view, I m 
making the same pictures that other people are. 

Well, on this Aviso is the pilot. 
Riess: What is an Aviso? 

Miller: I think that s the name of pilot boats, the little red pilot boats. 
Riess: Yes, okay. 

Miller: And this is the pilot who is going to step off this Aviso and mount the ship to direct them in, to 
avoid any bad spots in the entrance. It was marvelous, just beautiful. I wish I could have 
photographed it, but I didn t. This man has a long black coat, and he has a black top hat. Here 
we are in this little boat, coming alongside this great big troop transport bringing all these 
marines in from Korea, and the transport s going up and down, and our little boat is all over the 

Well, they ve got a rope ladder, a Jacob s ladder hanging over the side. And this pilot stands up 
as though he was a butterfly somehow, and just grabs hold of this rope ladder and just kind of 
flits up the ladder effortlessly! 

Riess: I bet you wish you d photographed that! 


Miller: My stomach and I were still at odds. I look at this ladder, and I ve got my camera bag on my 
shoulder. I wanted to get up there and photograph these guys coming in, these marines coming 
in. Things are bouncing back and forth and I throw myself at that rope ladder and scramble up 
to the top. I don t know how I got there, frankly, without losing my camera equipment or 
smashing it up, but I did get there. And I photographed the marines approaching the San 
Francisco harbor. 

Then, because my assignment was to photograph the return of these fellows, and I didn t know 
what this return was going to be, I had to find it. So, when we docked I was one of the first off 
down the gangplank so I could get down there and photograph these fellows, these marines, 
coming down the gangway. And I got down there and here we are inside this pier structure, 
whatever it is, filled with relatives, friends, wanting to greet these soldiers, or marines. 

I spotted one young woman who was just all wound up. Her man was coming home, and she 
was waiting for him. So I turned my back on the guys coming down the gangways, and spent 
time photographing her. Because I felt that something s going to happen here. And sure 
enough, with the help of a girlfriend she jumps over the fence onto the area where these 
fellows are walking out. She runs up to her man, and they embrace, and it was just lovely. 

I photographed some more of the fellows coming down. And at this point a fellow who was 
with me, a reporter, said, "Wayne, let s go, it s all over with." Because you know, the ship was 
pretty well empty, no activity around, the crowds had thinned, disappeared. I said, "I just want 
to hang on here for a while." Milt s his name, Milt Orshefsky, very talented reporter. 

I said, "No, you go on, I want to stay here for a while." He said, "Okay." So I stayed there. 
There was absolutely no one around, except a middle-aged woman standing there, looking at 
this ship. I walked over to her, and I said, "Can I help you?" She said "No, I just wanted to see 
the ship and the men coming home that would be with my son if he was coming home." I said, 
"Would you like to go aboard and look at the ship?" She said, "That would be nice." So I took 
her up, I introduced her to the officer on the quarter deck, explained the situation, he took over 
and gave her a tour. I left her there. 

I walked down the gangplank, gangway we called it. And then she eventually shows up and 
starts walking down this gangway by herself, and that was my picture. It s a nice picture. 
Well, this is an example of the evolution and the development of a thing like this, you never 
know until you have it. But, oh, it s such a good feeling when you do have it, you know. 

Riess: Yes, that s a great example. Milt, the reporter you were with, didn t determine what you were 
doing, you were free agents? He was off doing other things. 

Miller: Well, he was there to help me in any way he could. Maybe with names or something else. 
What I did and how I did it was entirely up to me. 

Milt communicated immediately with New York about what we d done and he said, "I m sorry, 
I guess we don t have a story." He didn t see it, you see, he didn t understand. He thought that 
what I was doing, evidently, didn t make a story that he could understand. And he got a 
telegram back, "Milt, you ve never been so wrong." They ran it as a lead story, a news story, 
you see. 

Riess: Oh, that s great. 


Miller: That was the frosting on the cake, [laughter] 

[riffling through pages] I did many of these returning people stories. 
Riess: And here, this camp. You were going to some migrant camps? 

Miller: This is a story I did for Ebony magazine, one of the first stories ever when they came outnot 
the first. Ebony s in Chicago, I d worked for them before, and they d asked me to do a story on 
cotton pickers in California ["Migrant workers camp, San Joaquin Valley, 1950"]. I went 
down to this area, looked around, and I found an area that looked good so I spent about two 
days, I think, down there. And it was one of those things, kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, 
everything looks good, it s so easy to photograph. 

Riess: Why was that? 
Miller: Why was it so easy? 
Riess: Yes. 

Miller: I don t know. Maybe I say it s so easy because the subject matter is so interesting. That s why 
it s so easy. 

Here s a union meeting, outside a union hall that is still in the process of being built. This is at 
night, and it s cold. You see the little kids here are cold, they don t have any clothing. And 
here s a union organizer here. Also, there s a mixture of ethnic groups here. Whites and 
blacks, and Hispanics, they re all equal in this one. They re all suffering, or sharing the same 
kind of work. And the father, and child here in the windy day. This was December, I recall, 
when I made these pictures. Here s more of the same thing with the encampments, with the 
temporary tents put up. 

This picture I have another picture of a couple on the bed where she s cleaning her fingernails 
and this man, her husband, is sitting beside her. Sad, sad picture. Sad circumstance in that he s 
sitting there at the end of the day, he d been picking cotton and he comes home tired, and he 
can t do anything at night because he can t afford to buy any glasses. But his wife is, in effect, 
just tolerating him because she s been with other men during the day, just kind of putting up 
with him until it s time to go to sleep. And that frustration there I feel, that resignation on his 
face was just tremendous. 

This is an interesting situation. There s probably one acre of land in the middle of these cotton 
fields, adjacent to a little county road. And there s one little house there, a little tiny frame 
house, and it represented the realization of a goal that every cotton picker, every migrant 
worker has, to have a home. This man had a home, but his wife died, and they didn t have any 
children. So he made his available to other cotton pickers. I think he had something like three 
or four rooms in it, and he had three or four families there. And I don t think he charged them 
anything for it. 

So I went into this house, I made some pictures, different happenings there. Then I found this 
one room where I made this picture I described to you. But, in addition, around this house on 
this one acre, there was room for other activities, which were tents that had been put up. And 


shelters, he allowed them to put them on his acre, it was just beautiful. In hindsight, that 
should have been my story, I could have done a book on that, you know. It was just lovely. 

So you run into these things, stories. When you re getting involved with it, you want to cry 
because of the richness of what you re seeing. The sharing, the suffering, the efforts being 
made. Sometimes it gets pretty hard to handle that sort of thing and still make pictures. But 
you know, by god, you ve got to do it. Because you can tthe next day, after you feel better, 
you can t come back and do it. It s happening right then and you ve got to do it then. 

Riess: And "right then" you think they re almost too exposed? 

Miller: Well, not too exposed. Two things. One is that you don t want to invade the privacy, and 

secondly is that what you re seeing is inside of you, and it just affects you to the point that it s 
hard to function rationally, because you re affected by these feelings. That s the kind of thing 
you have to push aside, and kick yourself, and literally say, quit fooling around, this is your 
job, do it. 

And when it comes to invading of privacy, if you act~if one acts with the people you re 
photographing, it s not an invasion of privacy. But if you act as a spectator, not sharing what 
they re going through, then I think it is invasion. But I ve found that when the subjects realize 
you re with them, it s okay. 

I did a story of a hospital fire in Effingham, Illinois. This was a great loss of life in this small 
town, of patients who were in this hospital. I got there a day or two after the fire. Made some 
pictures of the ruins, of people watching, looking at the ruins. Again, how do you photograph 
the fire? It s already taken place. 

So I learned of a family that hadI should look at this story again, tell you who had lost a 
daughter who was in there, was going to have a baby. Lost the daughter, and I think another 
relative. I started photographing this family, I talked to them about it. They believed my 
desire was to seriously show their sorrow. And I was there for about a day, I guess it was. I 
was photographing the family, I was in the home of the family, getting ready for the funeral. 
Here they are in the kitchen, preparing breakfast, and pulling their clothes together. Every 
once in a while, a moment would happen where people you d felt that all of the sudden 
everything in the kitchen stopped, and you were thinking about the daughter or the sister. 
Very, very interesting photographs. 

And then I got word that this was a community that had, I think, two different Catholic 
churches in it. And the head of the second Catholic church told the sheriff to get me out of 
town. He said this was terrible, intruding upon these peoples lives. And he was really 
adamant. I had that threat actively in my mind as I continued working with this family. I went 
into church, and while they were sitting in the pews I photographed them, good pictures, too. 
And this other priest was still threatening me. But their priest was sympathetic. I 
photographed them outside their home all lined up with the little empty spot where the 
daughter would have been standing. 

It was a good story. But overt resentment by one party, and acceptance by another tough 
conditions to work under, where you are knowingly in sensitive territory. So that ran as a lead 
story in Life, again a news story. 


Riess: You ve said that sometimes there s a story, and then there s another story, and in hindsight you 
see there is more there. I wonder if as you got more experienced you got more right on the 

Miller: You never know until it s over with. You never know until she kisses you. [laughter] 
Riess: What has experience counted for? A lot? 


Miller: Experience may not count as much as acuteness or sensitivity for me. And I think the younger 
I was as a photographer, the more sensitive I was and the more I could quickly react and grab 
hold of things. Photography is different than writing, in that you have to make that snap 
decision. In fact, you have to take the picture before you make the decision in order to get it. 
In my way, in my work, in my approach, I ve been trying to photograph the emotions, and 
they re so fleeting. So the sensitivities, the greater they are, the better I m able to react. 

That doesn t mean that maturity or experience doesn t fit in, but I think that s a quality of 
youngness which is very important. If you can learn early on to make use of that I m talking 
about this kind of photographyif you can learn to make use of it early on then you can be 
more successful at it. Because you don t think twice, you just do it. 

Riess: That makes me ask you again why you weren t tempted to teach. 

Miller: I was encouraged to teach at the San Francisco Art Institute. And other people were teaching 
out there. It just wasn t for me. I may be too selfish to be a good teacher, I don t know. 
Because there are other things I want to do. 

Riess: Did you catch, photographically, the beginnings of the Beat Generation? 

Miller: Not really. I d photographed the demonstrations over there at Berkeley, and things of that 
nature, but I wasn t attracted to that culture, either through music or revolt or rebellion of 
something of that nature. I didn t ever feel comfortable with it. So, I photographed many of 
the protests and what not. Some people, some photographers identify with it and do a swell 
job. But I didn t do that. 

Riess: [looking in the book] Now you had gotten to this one, the trailer park in Richland, Washington. 

Miller: This trailer park in Richland, this is the way people were living. These were temporary 

workers for the job. I think there was a downtick in the economy so that they were suffering 
many problems of that way of life. Here their whole life is in this trailer they might be living 
in, and when the jobs peter out or slow down, they re trapped. 

Assignment: Richard Nixon. Thoughts on Job Tensions 

Riess: Dick Nixon, he was a California story. 


Miller: Yes, he was. He was a senator, he was running for vice-president at this time [1952]. I think 
he d already been nominated and he s visiting his hometown, Whittier, California. 

Riess: That one by Cornell Capa? ["Senator Nixon working on campaign speech in hotel room, 
Upstate New York, 1952"] 

Miller: I d swearI was going to say that was my picture. I ve got the same picture from a different 
time, when the slush fund blew up. I was with him in Portland. 

Riess: Were you with the presidential photo entourage? 

Miller: Yes. Well, different times. During the campaigns I would do a take out of sorts, like with 

Nixon and with Jimmy Roosevelt running for governor here in California. His mother was out 
here with him. I spent time with them both in Los Angeles and then coming up here on the 
plane to campaign here in the Bay Area. 

Riess: Do you have any impressions of Nixon? 

Miller: Yes, I do. He s really a determined man, that s for sure. I think this [time of photograph] is 
before his slush fund built up. This is up here in Portland, Oregon, I think. 

Riess: And this you did in Whittier. 

Miller: Whittier, yes, and I was standing on the curbside while motorcades coming by and Nixon was 
there and all. And a man standing beside me said that Nixon was part of his law firm or group. 
He said, "I m sure happy he got this nomination, we wanted to get that son of a bitch out of the 
office." [laughter] 

I remember Nixon coming back to California after he was nominated [in 1956] to be vice- 
president. He was met at the Oakland Airport. These meetings and all where these things 
happen, these are politicians very important points, because the press is there, and these 
happenings are terribly important to them. So they can be there to be part of the pictures. And 
I remember riding with Goodie Knight, Goodwin Knight, who was governor of California at 
the time. 

We were seated in the backseat of his limousine going down the highway someplace, and he 
said, "I ve got it made, all my money is in gold and it s in the bank, so I don t have to take 
anything from these sons of bitches." And he went on to say, referring to Nixon coming back 
from being nominated and being met at the airport, he explained to me how important it was, 
these happenings, to be there. 

And he said, "You know, I look forward to this, and I get there, and you know that son of a 
bitch, his people wouldn t even let me be close to him, I couldn t get in, I couldn t be there. 
The Governor of the State of California!" He went on to say, "You know, he d cut his mother s 
throat and throw it aside if it helped him." He was bitter, bitter. Later I made a picture of 
Nixon, Goodie Knight, and Knowland, who was the senator, and Earl Warren, who I guess was 
on the Supreme Court at this time. All four of them, each one of them hating Nixon and some 
of the others more than you could describe. And here they are, standing there with their arms, 
like four old alums, posing for the magazine. Just smiling and all! 


Riess: Yes, it s interesting, isn t it. They re professional politicians, they re good at it. But opening the 
paper in the morning, seeing a picture of Bush, Putin, Sharon, you really want to look into the 
picture to get some sense of the individuals, and how they can be in the same room together. 

Miller: You want to know what to know what s really going on. Well, the camera fails there. Or at 
least, I don t know how it might otherwise be handled. 

Riess: This book about the fifties includes an essay by John Chancellor and he says, about the fifties, 
"The country felt young, full of promise, you knew where things stood and who you were. 
There were children everywhere." And, "Sexually, Americans were drawn as tight as strings 
on a crossbow." 

Miller: Well, that s a good phrase. And in hindsight, yes, but it s a little hard to get these things at the 

Riess: "Cities were starting to fall apart and suburbs were filling up." "The youth culture was on its 

Miller: Yes, well, I think Chancellor does this in hindsight. Nice man, though. 

Riess: Okay. In an article I read, Richard Pollard, then bureau chief of Life out here, says he 
remembers working with you on news stories and said, "Wayne may be high-strung 
emotionally, but on a news story he s sure composed and aggressive." 16 

What s the "high-strung emotionally?" Is he referring to what you ve just exemplified about 
getting so involved in your story? Why does he say that? 

Miller: I think he may be talking about how I may act in the presence of some of these stories, but 
inside I m functioning in a rational manner. I think that s probably what he s referring to. 
Because I can, well, be very active and aggressive but still be responsible for being able to 

I remember one time in New Delhi, we d been with Eisenhower on his trip he made through 
North Africa and France and even to Afghanistan and India. This was in India, and following 
the press. The White House press group had an Air Force Two. They would be flying in that 
plane. And there would be a pool photographer flying with the president in Air Force One. 
But all of us were there in the other plane. We d have to be up early to be ready for the job, and 
then we d work hard all day long pushing and pulling with crowds, struggling to get some 
[interruption from outside]. 

And we would have to take care of our equipment and write our captions and organize things 
for the next day. So, invariably we would have about two hours sleep every night. And during 
the day we d be running alongside the president s car, so physically terribly exhausting. Other 
times we d be riding in the back of a big truck, a three or five ton truck which looks like a great 
big construction truck. So we have to run back and get there in time to be ready to precede 
him to the next stop. It s exhausting, and in this case it s very hot. 

16."Focus on Wayne Miller" by Carol Schwalberg, Popular Photography, March 1967. 


Well, I remember this one time I got back there-and we d all been working together, 
photographers, we help each other out, you have to. And for some of these choice places 
you ll swap off now and then. I get back there, and I find there s two fresh Life photographers 
who haven t been on this trip before, that have been shipped in by Life, sitting there in those 
choice spots. And behind them, inside the truck, standing on the same bed of the truck, is the 
bureau chief, or a senior reporter, I think from Washington or New York, who had brought 
these fellows out. He hadn t been on this trip before. The photographers would be all plugged 
into that, lowered into there, and would precede the president so that we could photograph his 
motorcade. In a truck like this, there are a few places that are more advantageous than others, 
for a photographer. So you fight for those places. I ve ridden in a lot of those trucks. 

Anyway, here we are in New Delhi, and invariably when the president lands in a new country, 
he s received by the hometown king or president. In this case, he was in this headquarters, or 
whatever it is, in New Delhi. He was in there, paying his respects, and we were there 
photographing him. Then we have to run back after this, we have to run back to our trucks 
while he just walks out the front door and gets into his limousine there. 

I got back there first, one of the first to get back there, and I immediately sized up what had 
happened. I had three cameras around my neck, I think, one with a telephoto lens on it. And I 
took this camera off of my neck, with this long lens on it, grabbed hold of the front of this 
guy s shirt with my camera in my other hand. I said, "You get these guys out of here or I m 
going to smash this right in your face." They got out. But our tensions on this sort of a thing 
are real. This may be an example of what Dick Pollard s talking about, I get excited. These 
tensions can become very real. 

Riess: Photographers are sometimes perceived as being pushy and all over the place. And that must 
be a hard perception to live with, too. 

Miller: Well, we were in Morocco, and Eisenhower, the president, was in there visiting with the king 
or president of Morocco, whoever it was. And then we were invited in to make our pictures. 
We kind of come in like a mass of people, and this one fellow from Life, a young, aggressive 
photographer, very good, but his personality when he gets under pressure gets a little much, he 
was using a wide-angle lens, which means you can t stand in the back of the room and do a 
close-up of these people sitting on a couch. 

So what he does~we were all fighting for space around what limited space we had, and he gets 
out in front of all of us, in order to make use of his wide-angle lens up close. After that was 
over, outside I said, "Paul, if you do this once more, I ll put my foot right in the middle of your 
back and you re going to be sitting in Eisenhower s lap." He didn t do that again. Because I 
could do that and nobody would see it, it could happen. But the point is, you talk about the 
pushing and pulling, yes, it gets to be pretty physical at times. 

Other Bay Area Photographers 

Riess: New subject, Wayne. Who did you find sympathetic in the photography world here? I ve got 
a bunch of names, Morley Baer, John Gutmann, Jack Welpott, Wynn Bullock, Pirkle Jones, 
Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham? 

Miller: I can give you squibs on each of them, I suppose. Welpott I didn t know. Pirkle I knew 

through Dorothea Lange, when he did lab work for her. Very nice man and his wife, Ruth- 
Marion Baruch Jones. 

Photographers are, I don t know, maybe some photographers have close relationships with 
other photographers. But in a working photographer group I don t believe we do. We know 
each other s work, we may see them on assignments, we share assignments sometimes. But to 
be relaxed and carry on a social relationship, I don t know, in my world that didn t take place. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson mentioned one time that photographers are kind of like ships that pass 
in the night and they go, "toot, toot, toot" as they go by. That doesn t mean that we don t know 
each other well. I ve met photographers face to face that I ve never met before, and we throw 
our arms around each other in mutual respect. We feel close, and have been good friends even 
though we haven t met. That s happened to me many times. 

Riess: So among any of these out here? 

Miller: Well, in relationship to that, I m saying that I didn t spend time with any of these people. I d 
met them. Like Ansel, I ve been with him maybe three or four or five times. Maybe more, but 
I don t remember them. With Ansel, I don t share those warm relationships. Professional, yes. 
He s a different world, different concerns, or interests. He s not interested in photojournalism. 
I suppose he might think that it was sacrilegious to use these good photographic materials on 
such subject matter as photojournalism. He was a very sweet man and a very generous man, 
but it s just a different field of activity. 

Minor White falls in the same category, Imogen also. These people out here are by and large 
of a different world than my world of photojournalism. 

Riess: You refer to yourself as a working photographer. These are not working photographers? 
Miller: Not in my terminology, no. Who else? 
Riess: John Gutmann? 

Miller: I knew John very slightly. Met him a couple times, one time was on a street comer on San 

Francisco. Another time was on the telephone, I congratulated him on an exhibit, and I think 
we were involved and would meet periodically. Exceptional photographer, but I never got to 
know him, no. 

You see, in San Francisco, the Bay Area, there weren t many out here concerned with 
photojournalism. Or they would be teaching. Most every one of those people you mentioned 
had been teachers. That was their fallback position, including Morley Baer. Morley Baer, 
before he d been teaching, was a very successful architectural photographer, very good. But 


out here, and I m talking about the Bay Area, photography has beencall it the fine arts, or 
architecture, or food photography, but people to do assignments other than in those fields, they 
didn t seem to be out here. I know that there used to be some in advertising. Fred Lyon, 
exceptional in advertising work, illustrator. 

Riess: How about anybody at the Chronicle who was good? 

Miller: I don t know, I didn t keep in touch with those people. Except on assignments I d see them 

once in a while, you know. But even that, you see, so many of my assignments were not local. 

Riess: And did you stay in touch with Dorothea? 

Miller: Oh yes. Dorothea was so gracious, she invited us into her family. We would be invited to 
some of her Thanksgiving parties and festivals and Christmases. She was a very warm, 
concerned woman. I say concerned, and obviously about her subject matter in photography, 
but also concerned with her family. I don t know what else I can say about her. If we get Joan 
to involve me to trigger something here I could put it into words there have been gifts to Joan 
and our children from Paul and Dorothea s East Asian trip. But more doesn t come to me right 




[Interview 5: October 10, 2001]## 

World Trade Center BombinetQ/lLand Photographing War 

Miller: [responding to question about where he was on September 1 1 , 200 1 , to learn about the 

bombing of the World Trade Center] I was in a sidewalk cafe in Aries, France, and a waiter 
came over to our table and told Joan and me that we ought to go look at television. He didn t 
speak English more than that. So we went back to the hotel, which was just a block away, and 
watched it on television, together with a tour group that had been going down a river, or 
someplace, on a barge, and they came ashore to watch this. We joined them, and watched 
those incredible photographs of the Trade Center collapsing. And also being hit by the second 

It s fascinating that cameras were focused on this area at the time. As I think you ve probably 
heard, the first one was photographed because somebody was in that area photographing that 
immediate area. And they just moved their camera up when they saw this plane coming. And 
caught it. 

Well, it was a horrifying experience seeing that, just unbelievable. It was hard to comprehend 
what was taking place; we could see it with our eyes, but to comprehend it was something else. 
It was devastating to the dozen or so people, and Joan and me, watching it. But I must say, it 
was so unreal that it didn t have much impact for me. On me. And it made me think of other 
situations I ve been exposed to, during World War II, andit happens, those things happen. It 
wasn t the end of the world, it just happened, and you go on. The loss of life was terrible, but 
there have been greater losses of life in tragedies. Maybe not as immediate as that. 

The surreal quality was where the impact came in my mind. Also that they had breached the 
security, the cocoon that most of us walk with; we no longer had that security. I ve been 
thinking about it since then and realize that the 5,000 people or 6,000 people that were killed 
in that that every year we drive our automobiles that 40,000 or more people are killed in 
automobiles. And we don t register that, and it doesn t have an impact on us. I remember 
during World War II, you knew you could be injured or killed, but somehow because you re 
not killed you ve kind of dodged the bullet. In peacetime, if we call this peacetime, we dodge 
the bullet every time we drive an automobile. Or cross the street. 

Riess: Or fly a plane. 

Miller: That s right. And so I don t know. It s a tragedy. I must say I have a great respect, if I can say 
that, for this guy bin Laden to have pulled this off. It s fantastic to have figured out how to do 
this and to make use of the very tools of his enemy to destroy his enemy. That to me is a 
masterful approach to this whole thing. It makes him more dangerous because of this devious 


quality of his way of thinking. It s frightening. Frightening. But we ll go on, our life will go 
on. Interesting to see how fast this is cooling down, as far as public reaction goes. This will 
cool down, and it will be supplanted by another problem. I think that younger people who 
haven t had the experiences that an older person has, the impact on them will be much greater. 

Riess: Your children, your grandchildren, are they more frightened? Terrorized, in other words? 

Miller: Well, we were traveling, Joan and I, with our granddaughter, twenry-six-year-old 

granddaughter. And her father, David, was in touch with her by email, and he kept telling her 
to be careful how she was reacting, not to bring any additional attention to herself as being an 
Americanthis was in Paris when we were going back and forth with email. Just to be careful. 
But I must say that she was really flipped out, you might say, she was close to the edge of 
panic by thinking that her world was coming to an end, or our world was coming to an end. 
That the value of the dollar would sink and we wouldn t have any economic ability to leave 
France because we wouldn t have any money. All the airplanes would go down. She hit the 
panic button. Now I don t think that she is necessarily representative of that age American 
girl, but she was strongly influenced by this. 

Riess: In your photography, in your life, had you any experience with radical fundamentalism? 
Given that this is a kind of religious war. 

Miller: In a manner of speaking, yes, I think That s what the Japanese kamikaze bombers were. It s a 
direct overlay on this immediate situation, this story. They were dressed in ceremonial robes 
that their loved ones, mothers, sisters, wives, had stitched with prayers on the sashes they 

I remember one time, I forget what carrier it was, maybe it was the U.S.S. Saratoga, a 
kamikaze came in a bright sunny day came in riding with the sun behind him. And he 
missed the carrier and hit the water behind the carrier. A beautiful blue sky like a cruise ship 
situation, and here this fellow plopped into the water, and his body kind of exploded from the 
water. Maybe it was a seat ejection or something, I don t know. Anyway, fully clothed in his 
ceremonial gown, he popped up out of the plane and went back into the water when it 
exploded. It was eerie, a surreal situation. 

I was exposed to kamikaze planes in and around different battle actions in the Philippine 
Island invasions. But these things are so aberrant, at least in my mind and my experiences, it s 
hard to grasp the reality. So the fear is not there. Fear is there, sure, but it s a different kind of 
thing than somebody walking up to you with a gun in their hand. Because this is unreal. 
That s what I m trying to say. 

Riess: You mentioned the videotape. I wonder if being able to see it instantly on television almost 
contributes to its being unreal? Because it s so much like a movie. 

Miller: Yes, and it was so well done. It could have been done as a commercial on these t.v. replays. 

Riess: Your wartime assignment was to bring home to America the look of war, and now, It s really 
different now, isn t it? 

Miller: Yes, it is different. If I had been there, I don t know what I could have photographed or would 
have wanted to photograph. I could have photographed the reaction of the people to the 


happening. That s all I could photograph, really. Because t.v. was doing such a splendid job. 
I mean, you have the movie camera doing such a splendid job of photographing. But to show 
the individual reactions to it, I don t see how I could have made pictures that would have been 
unique to that moment. It would have been no different than an earthquake, or a hurricane, or 
something coming through, or any other kind of a frightening thing. I don t know how 
photographs could have described or captured those qualities that were peculiar to that 
moment. It s baffling to me. 

Riess: There have been so many photographs of groups of people at the funerals of the victimes since 
then. They try to photograph the emotions. 

Miller: Well, it becomes the same picture. I just don t know how it can do other than just repeat the 
same moment. And I think part of it is that we just can t understand what happened. I mean, 
if we could better understand it, then we could better photograph it. But, for me, I m at a loss 
as to how to do it. 

It isn t the loss of life, perse, that I think is the terrifying thing. I think that the terrifying thing 
is that all of the sudden we re vulnerable. That sense of vulnerability is the frightening aspect 
of it. I ran across some figures the other day that during the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam, 
more people were killed in one day than were killed in seven years of the Vietnam War. So 
when it comes to tragedy, that s hard to top that one. But we re now involved in the old FDR 
phrase, "all we have to fear is fear itself." Anyway. 

A Conversation about Intentions 

Riess: One of the things I sent you, I ll just take that as a little segue, was the article by Greil Marcus 
that I Xeroxed from the New York Times about a photographer named John Cohen. 17 Have 
you heard of him? 

Miller: I ve heard the name, but I don t identify with him one way or another. 

Riess: Well, in the article, it makes a point about how we look at New York City through the eyes of 
Helen Levitt, and at other towns through Walker Evans s eyes. We look at the highway and so 
on through the eyes of Robert Frank. And the article says that those photographers, "whatever 
their claims of artlessness, knew what they were looking for." 

Miller: I can t relate to that kind of a thing, that they knew what they were looking for. You don t 
know what you re looking for until you see it. That s the fun of photography, is to be 
continuously surprised or excited by whatever you might see again, new things. And to be 
able to see new things is the thrill of photography. I think photography encourages that kind of 

Riess: It s contrasting those people with John Cohen, who argues that the picture exists "outside of 
the photographer s intentions." I guess it s that talkiness about photography that you probably 

17. Insert from Interview 7. 

IS. New York Times, November 18, 2001. 


get a little tired of and Greil Marcus is somebody who might be guilty of that. Anyway, "the 
photographer will only ever capture part of the picture that he or she thinks he or she has 
found." It goes on to say that "the photographer s best, most fully-realized pictures are also his 
or her most inscrutable," and that photography "helplessly records but cannot translate," that 
"pictures mock the one who took them." 

Miller: Well, I don t know what that last phrase means, but inscrutable, I can understand that. I make 
a photograph in trying to better understand what is going on, trying to capture something that s 
new that I feel there. 

Riess: And then when you actually look back into it, when you actually see the photograph, do you 
find it raises more questions? 

Miller: Sometimes I feel that I missed it completely. But once in a while I d say, I got some of that in 
there. I think about some of the Chicago black picturesone comes to my mind of a young 
woman sitting at a bar, waiting for her man to show up. The loneliness there, I felt that and I 
got some of it in that picture. 

Well, this photograph [in newspaper article] is good, it s excellent in the fact that it s not so 
literal, it s good in that regard, it lets the viewer fill in those meanings that add to its weight. 
It s swell in that regard. 

I find that talking about photographs, I don t enjoy doing that. 
Riess: Talking about your own photographs? 

Miller: Or anybody else s. Just talking about photography I don t particularly enjoy. I don t know 

why. And talking about the meaning in a photograph, or how well it captured this, or what s it 
trying to say? God, almighty! As far as I m concerned, I don t know what it is, I just don t. 
Some people can talk a photograph to death, or talk a situation to death. In my mind it 
destroys it. You can t ever revisit that subject or that moment without feeling, "Well, I ve been 
there." It s just destroyed that opportunity, for one. Some people just enjoy that sort of I don t 
know how to express it, they just talk it to death. That doesn t mean it doesn t have a value, 
but for me and the way I look at things, it throws cold water on it. 

Riess: It does. That s what critics seem to do, inadvertently. 

Miller: And an extreme of that is where I d have photographs published, maybe in a photography 

magazine or something, and the editors would make up a caption for it, as to what I was trying 
to photograph, how well I had "captured" these feelings. I don t know that editor, he doesn t 
know me, he has no idea, just pure spin on his part to say something like that. To me it s just 
insulting, and it degrades the whole concept of one s effort, for somebody else to have to 
explain what was in that, why I took that picture. 

Riess: Ideally, there would be no caption? 
Miller: Well, it could have a caption to say that it was made in Hoboken or something. 

I think I showed you some captions I had for the birth pictures that appeared in US Camera 
Annual. Didn t I show that to you? This was the series I d done of Joan going through labor. 


US Camera Annual insisted on having a caption. They d telephone me and send me 
telegrams: "We have to have a caption." 

[tape interruption] 

Miller: [looking at notes] I tried to start writing day by day, something that took place, and these are 
some of those drafts. Some are my meanderings, others Joan had written down of what I d 
expose. These are 1946, 1947. These are actually done during that period. These were not for 
any purpose other than just a log, in effect, of what was taking place. 

Riess: Joan has been your collaborator in more ways than I know. 

Miller: She was always desirous and willing to help any time I wanted help. Part of my problem was 
that I had difficulty wanting to be helped, or knowing how to ask for help. When she did offer 
help, I m sure I was hyper-critical of it, that s who I was and am. It made it difficult to work 
along, I was always kind of a lone operator, a lone wolf or call it what you will. It was difficult 
for me to know how to work with someone else. 

Riess : Hyper-critical of yourself as well? 

Miller: Oh yes, very much so. I couldn t tolerate when I would make mistakes and screw up, it was 
hard for me. I did my best to keep sharp and not make mistakes. She s been very helpful. I 
guess in hindsight, when I get along better with myself, she s most helpful. I can take 
photographs and show them to her and ask what she thinks about this or that, and she will, I 
think, be able to say, I don t see anything here, or this one I like, or these two work together. Of 
course it s hard to know what I have in mind when I ask her a question like that. It s a 
minefield for anybody trying to react to a question like that, a request. When it comes to my 
writing something, asking her to critique it, she s exceptionally good on that, and can get me to 
think more clearly and to find better ways of expressing things. 

9/11 Images 

Riess: Wayne, I have been sending you a lot of stuff from the New York Times. Originally we were 
going to meet in November when you were just back from Chicago, and then you were ill. 
Meanwhile the world has been overwhelmed with photographs from September 1 1th. For 
instance, the exhibition, "Here is New York." One of the newspaper articles pointed out that 
Magnum photographers were all over the place because on September 1 1th they had just been 
in New York for their annual meeting. 


Miller: Yes, they were there for one reason or another. In some ways, when something like that 

happens it s kind of like being a conditioned fire-horse, you begin to move and think, "I ve got 
to go and be a part of this sort of thing." In hindsight, I think I m sort of glad I wasn t there. 
Because it was an impossible kind of subject to photograph I think. 


I ve seen a good number of those pictures, I saw the ["Here is New York"] exhibit at the 
University [in the School of Journalism]. Have you been to see that? 

Riess: Yes. 

Miller: Yet I d be hard-put to find six pictures that really told the story of that. 
Riess: "Really told the story." What are you asking of that picture? 

Miller: I don t know, I just don t know. The airplanes hitting the towers, that s~but in human terms, 
what photographs express it in human terms, the horror of it? The surprise. I didn t see them. 
I saw lots of pictures, obviously, but I can t findthere were a couple of pictures there that 
were good. I remember one picture of a man standing in the middle of all this chaos, holding 
up a picture, in front of him. Obviously, he d lost that person, that person was missing in this 
happening. Somehow or other that was closer to expressing the horror of it than any of the 
other pictures that I saw. 

This is a very personal reaction on my part, and evaluation. You see all this stuff, sure, lots of 
grief, well not grief, lots of activity and dirt and chaos, people with stretchers and carrying 
people and all this and that. But none of them seemed to reach in there and grab hold of what 
happened. I missed that. If I d been there with my camera I would have been looking for that. 
What can I photograph that says the horror or the magnitude of all of this. I would have been 
stressed out, certainly, trying to find that, but not just recording what we saw, that kind of thing 
of smoke and debris and people pushing and people crying. 

Riess: It seems like the emotion they were trying to capture was of the triumph of the spirit. A 

picture like this [a woman feeding her baby on a rooftop terrace with the smoking towers of 
the World Trade Center in the background], what s that picture saying? 

Miller: Well, factually, let s see. There s this smoke and stuff in the background and here s a woman 
on the rooftop, and her child there. She s nicely dressed and all, and the baby looks fine and 
all. She might be feeding it or something. A photograph should say more than it does, the 
photograph is mumbling rather than saying, This is a fact. 

Riess: This series [shows Miller] the cameraman [Evan Fairbanks], who did the first video. 

Miller: Well, these are interesting photographs, but again, they didn t capture that nerve end and say, 
"This is what it s all about, this is what it is." 

Riess: Let s go back to another disaster. When you think of World War II, what one or two pictures 
totally capture it and say, "This is what it was about." 

Miller: Well, that s why the Rosenfeld [Joe Rosenthal] picture is so well accepted, raising the flag on 
Iwo Jima. I can t think right offhand of other thingsthe pictures that Gene Smith made of a 
GI taking a small baby out of a cave, lifting it, raising it up to another soldier. I just don t 
know. I missed an awful lot of those photographs because I was-. 

Riess: It sounds like what you re looking for is something about the human spirit. 


Miller: Well, its meaning in relationship not to tons of debris or to amounts of ammunition, but its 
meaning to fellow humans, yes. I remember having almost the same conversation with 
Edward Steichen years and years ago. He said, "Wayne, you just are asking too much of a 
photograph. You re hoping to get more than maybe it s possible to get in a photograph." That 
might be the case. My own work, for example, I think that maybe the baby being born comes 
closer to it than anything else. It just says it. 

Riess: How about the figure walking across the plaza in Hiroshima? 
Miller: That wasn t a plaza, it was a city street. 
Riess: Well, it looks like a plaza. 

Miller: Because everything was gone. I think that was close to it, but you have to know that it s 

Hiroshima, and you have to know that s a Japanese soldier. That fails there. In other words, 
you have to know that, and the picture doesn t say it. To be really good, that should be in the 

Too Good to be True 

Riess: [rustles papers]. This is interesting [New York Times November 14, 2001, "The Assignment is 
to Get the Story"]. 

Miller: This is a classic, almost posing. Sometimes a picture is so right it s unbelievable. It can be too 
good. You become suspicious, and if you re suspicious of it you ve lost much of the meaning 
of it. People are diverted from embracing it. This picture I think might have been better in 
black and white than in color. 

Riess: It is captioned, "Albanian women mourning a fallen youth resonates with the power of 
classical painting." 

Miller: This picture has been reproduced well, versions of this picture, not the same picture. The 
Greeks are great for it, and the Italians. When someone dies, they throw themselves on the 
coffin, or they throw themselves on the gravestone or the body. Gene Smith has done it 
several times. This is exceptionally nice, there s no question about it. 

Riess: I m getting from this conversation a sense of how hard you were on yourself over the years. 

Miller: I think that s true, in that I had great difficulty being happy with anything that I did, and being 
satisfied. Also I think that it may be a measure of the ego that I have, and the pictures don t go 
with the ego. [laughs] 

Riess: It sounds like there s an incredibly fine line between the right-on picture and the cliche. 

Miller: Right. I think that s why The Family of Man exhibition was so good. Steichen pulled back 
just a spit from the cliche, or from the saccharine, or being overdone. Of course it has to be 
judged in light of the tenor of the mass feelings at that time rather than today. Because I think 


that then it was exceptionally successful. I agree with you, that picture of Eugene Smith s, the 
two children walking out from underneath the bushes, that s about as corny as you can get, but 
it isn t quite corny. It s very good. 

Riess: This is a remarkable picture, for other reasons, for pictorial reasons. [New York Times 
December 11,2001] 

Miller: The caption says, "a mother and her ten day-old girl in a refugee camp." Now where is the 
mother and where is the girl? 

Riess: There s the baby s face, and there is the mother. 

Miller: Oh! Way down in there! Maybe it s not photographed well enough. I d like to see a greater 
emphasis onI can t tell it s a mother. I see a little baby s face way down there. But I don t 
see it. If all of this was dark, and that became the bright spot in the picture, then I could see it. 
But here s a case when color isit s a fantastic setting and all, no question about it, it s just 
unbelievable somehow. 

Riess: As a photographer, you d have wanted to move closer in. 

Miller: Yes, I d like to. But then you d lose this whole big thing, which is I guess water-proofing over 
the mud house. I don t know if that would emphasize it some, getting rid of some of that. 
Now that you ve pointed it out, I can see it very well. But that mother you talk about, to me 
could be just a week s laundry, [laughs] I know what you re saying, but talking as a 
photographer, it doesn t say it to me. 19 

The Idea of The Family of Man 

Riess: Let s talk about The Family of Man s view of the world of humankind. 

Miller: Well, I think that Steichen had a keen appreciation, probably a Walt Whitman-like 

appreciation of the dignity and the heroic qualities of mankind. And let s remember that 
Steichen began it in his mind in 5 1, 52. This is after the war when there was a desire in his 
mind, I think, and I think the subsequent acceptance by the general public they wanted a 
sense of security, a sense of knowing that things are going to be all right. And that down deep 
there is something in all of us that is going to make it all right. We all share common hopes, 
loves, and even some hate and frustrations, but we re among friends in this world. That is a 
quality that I feel September 1 1 has ruptured, that sense of security. 

I think it s only temporary, because it ll repair itself. And we ll go on again, and those same 
qualities that we had in The Family of Man prevail today. I don t see any difference in the 
world, as far as the overlay of The Family of Man. We can, maybe, question today some of the 
premises that Steichen had that he made the world, maybe, seem a little too good. I think 
today we realize that the world is not that stable, and perhaps one of the reasons for it is that 

19. End Insert from Interview 7. 


today we have a greater sense of communication and faster knowledge about what is going on. 
In any one evening, a newscast, we can see and hear about violence and frustrations in a dozen 
different places in the world. In the early fifties maybe we could come up with one, maybe 
two of those things. 

Today it s commonplace to feel that instability is almost becoming the norm. How that relates 
to The Family of Man, I don t know. Except I believe that going back to Steichen s premise 
down deep we all want stability, we all want love, and to have family to take care of each 
other. I don t see much difference, really, in the application of The Family of Man concept as 
we did it in the fifties as it might relate now to 2001. 

Riess: What bank of photographs of the Muslim third of the world could you go to in the fifties? 

Miller: My guess is National Geographic, because I don t know of any source, per se, other than 

looking through the files of photo agencies and what not, like we did, and looking for that sort 
of thing. But we weren t focusing on that, we weren t sensitive to it, so it wouldn t have been 
photographed to any degree. The Muslim world is a very dignified world and a fine world, but 
we were not talking about that. We were not talking about September 1 1 or about aberrant 

I guess it goes back to you wouldn t call them tribal, but religious wars in India. They had 
those when I was a child. They had fantastic things there where they killed all Christians, you 
know, just anybody. But source of photographs, I just don t know. 

Riess: You ve said some of the early meetings to plan The Family of Man took place here? 

Miller: Yes. Backing off a bit, Steichen made a trip to Europe, I think, in 51 and 52. And I guess 
Robert Frank went with him as an interpreter as well as a guide. Steichen was trying to 
understand whether or not enough photographs might exist to accomplish this concept he had 
in mind. He made many good contacts on those trips. Then when he decided that it was worth 
pursuing further, he did come out here to Orinda and spent time with Joan and me, talking 
about the concept. 

And also he had arranged for Joan to talk to Dorothea Lange, to get Dorothea, together with 
Joan and Christina Page, to put together a gathering here at this home, my home. Fifty or sixty 
people showed up, photographers, leading photographers that were available at that time to 
gather here. Steichen wanted to explain to them what he had in mind and to ask their help in 
supplying pictures, photographs for this exhibition. His way of operating is to throw ideas out 
and get reactions from people. When he was talking to a group like this, he was really testing 
the concepts, always testing. 

I must say it was fascinating to listen to him talk to this group. These people included 
everybody like Imogen Cunningham, and I don t know, a whole list of photographers. And he 
talked to them in our hallway down below, saying he wanted pictures that showed the deeper 
feelings of the human being, love, frustrations, striving, hate, and so forth, longing. He went 
on talking this way and I could see these photographers eyes glaze over, because as they heard 
him they were wondering where did they have any photographs that they d made that showed 
these things. And I can t help but believe that they were thinking, "I don t have any pictures 
like that," and what the devil is this guy talking about. 


Actually, as a result of that meeting out here, Dorothea Lange continued to try to gather 
photographs from this group to send to us in New York when we finally had started on this. I 
don t think we received many pictures at all. Dorothea seemedas I recall she felt that she had 
sent in quite a few, but I don t remember them coming in. From that particular group that 
were here, I don t remember more than a couple of pictures ultimately in The Family of Man 
exhibition that came from this group. 

Gathering and Choosing the Photographs 

Riess: These were supposed to be stock pictures; they weren t supposed to go out and shoot, correct? 


Miller: Well, Dorothea was encouraging people to go out and shoot. But we never asked people to 
make a picture. No pictures that I know of were made after Steichen requested pictures. I 
don t know of anybody who made pictures and sent them in. The pictures we used in the 
exhibition, they were all pictures that been previously made. Because he was interested in 
showing how the art of photography could say something that couldn t be said any other way, 
to talk about mankind. That was one of his major themes. 

Riess: The people you gathered here were doing abstractions or architectural photography or what? 

Miller: You make a good point, because these people were not a good group to expect pictures from. 
Their subject matter was not Steichen s Family of Man subject matter, by and large. They 
were interested in "scapes," landscapes and that sort of thing, seascapes, and advertising, some 
magazine illustration, but not documentary. Dorothea Lange was the only documentary 
photographer in the group. 

Riess: Who were the photojournalists out here? You and who else? 

Miller: Well, right after the war, the magazines using photojournalism, their offices were in New York. 
We had a couple of offices out here. Time-Life had an office, Collier s magazine had an office. 
Pierre Salinger, he was out here working for Collier s. And that s about it, I think. I think 
maybe Look had a partial office, I don t know. But practically speaking, photography in the 
Bay Area was built around food. It was Del Monte and others out here. And architecture. 
Sunset magazine was big in the photography world as far as use of photographers and having 
us being able to get assignments. The other magazines, very few assignments for 
photographers. As a result, we hadn t yet developed a group of photojournalists. 

Riess: And Farm Security, did you say you had access to those photographs? 

Miller: Yes, well we knew of those things, we knew those pictures. But that sort of thing, you can 
only use a few of them to have them fall in where they might be. 

Riess: Ansel Adams, did he come to the meeting here? 

20. See Dorothea Lange, The Making of a Documentor) Photographer, Regional Oral History Office, 
The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, 1968. 


Miller: No, he did not come to this meeting. Minor White came. 

Riess: Robert Frank was not based out here, was he? 

Miller: No, he was in New York. 

Riess: How did Steichen convince you to come back to New York? 

Miller: Well, during the trip he made out here for that meeting he asked me if I d be interested in 

working with him on this. And I thought that this was the most marvelous opportunity in the 
world because this is my subject, my subject matter. In effect my approach to the subject 
matter I had practiced during World War II. And then after the war at the Institute of Design in 
Chicago. I was telling you how in effect I taught this concept, about human emotion, the way 
we express it photographically and in everyday life. So I was primed for it. I had been out 
here four years, I had been working with Life magazine, and I guess I was ready for a change. 
I was not unhappy to leave what I was doing. 


Miller: We packed up our four children, rented this house, then moved to an apartment on 101st and 
Riverside in New York City. 

Riess: From the outset, you were the team, you and Steichen? 

Miller: Just the two of us, yes. Later we added an architect to design the show. That was Paul 

Rudolph. And we had another man, I can t remember his name, who was a model maker, so 
he could build a model to scale of our exhibit space and we could hang the show in miniature 
to get an idea of scale of the images, and traffic patterns and that sort of thing. And from the 
very beginning we had one or two young women helping us as far as cataloguing the material, 
coming in and pinning up the material on these little 4 x4 and 4 x8 Homosote panels 
[fibreboard panels] just so we could look at them. 

Riess: It sounds like a really huge job. How did the two of you back off and get feedback about 
whether you were going in the right direction? Was there any question in one s mind? 

Miller: That was a continuous worry on Steichen s part. He encouraged some people to come to our 
work space and look at what were doing. He was very interested in their reactions. One 
young man, young guy, was a curator of anthropology, I guess, at the Metropolitan Museum. 
And Steichen was interested in Dorothea. She came there several times. They could talk to 
one another straight. She certainly, in a manner of speaking, loved Steichen, and he had the 
highest respect for her and he was very interested in her reactions. 

Riess: Did the anthropologist have a smart response to it? 

Miller: Well, I don t remember in specific. But whatever he said, I m sure Steichen listened to 

carefully. I remember the anthropologist came up there with his wife and a small child and sat 
there for some time. 

Steichen was interested, always, in talking about it. We talked about it constantly during the 
day. We d question the picture. "What does this picture really say?" "Is it meaningful, or is it 


just interesting?" "What is its value?" Then at the end of the day, during the week, we d leave 
this loft which was over between Fifth and Sixth in New York Citywe didn t leave there until 
seven or eight o clock at nightand go have some dinner and he d go with us and spend the 
night with us in our apartment. 

Riess: That sounds awkward. 

Miller: Awkward? It wasn t awkward, but after a while it began to be such a cloying quality, you just 
wanted to go take a shower and wash it all off of you. Because it was so intense. And then on 
weekends we d go with him to his home in Connecticut. 

We were always questioning these different aspects of it. "Was this important?" or "Is that 
important?" It was pretty heavy-duty. 


Riess: What were the ambitions for the exhibition? You were going to change people s perceptions 
of the family of man? 

Miller: I don t think we ever talked about that. 
Riess: But it was more than just a show at the museum, right? 

Miller: That s correct. In fact, Steichen was ready to pull the plug on this at any time if he felt it 
wasn t going to work. He was really quite down deep worried that he may be just kidding 
himself. He didn t know if this was really going to communicate, or make contact with the 
viewer. I remember the day before the opening he was just really very, very worried. "Are 
people going to get this or are they just going to laugh at it?" 

He was selecting photographs and relating them one to another in sequences which could be- 
well, if he had pushed a little bit further it would have been maudlin, it would have been 
saccharine. But he pulled back from that. And I think that was masterful, to be able to 
knowingly do that. I remember the look on his face, and I have a photograph that somebody 
made at that time, during the opening of the exhibit in New York City. And his face is just so 
open, he was just so pleased because the reception was much greater than he had ever hoped 

Riess: The critical reception? 

Miller: The critical reception was very good. The immediate critical reception was very good, the 
press. After a few months some negative criticisms started to pop up. And I must say that 
from my unsophisticated point of view, they were not meaningful. Because these were 
people the critics, in my mind, were not the common man. They were outside of it looking 
down their noses at this approach to communication, and taking cheap shots at it. 

Now I m sure some of it was merited, but my god, the public reception was so great that I 
think it just swamped those other points of view. I never talked to Steichen about these critical 
reviews. I know some reviewers years later missed the point, they didn t put it into context as 
far as the times, the political times and the emotional times. It s easy to take something out of 
context and to find fault with it. 


Legitimizing the Snapshot 

Riess: One of the articles I read said it was the first major black and white photographic exhibit 

produced in the mid-twentieth century. "It endowed documentary photography as a legitimate 
journalistic, commercial, and artistic visual form. It was the forerunner of essays and books 
like A day in the life of, etc. that document people, their lives, and how they pursue them." 

Miller: I think that s valid. Up until that time these photographs had been considered snapshots, and 
you couldn t even get in the back door of a museum with snapshots. It was the first 
recognition of documentary photography by a leading museum. And that was only possible 
because of the faith and recognition of the director of the Museum of Modern Art, Rene 
d Harnoncourt, and also of the approval within the museum by this fine man in charge of 
paintinghis name slips my mind. But his acceptance of this made it respectable, or 
acceptable. And, of course, the support by Nelson Rockefeller and the Rockefeller money 
didn t hurt, because he put up the money for the exhibition. 

Riess: Did Steichen go to him? 

Miller: I don t know how that came about. But Steichen knew Nelson Rockefeller, and it may have 
been through Rene d Harnoncourt, I don t know. 

Also it s worth noting that up until this point in time the advertising world had ignored this 
kind of photography. And after The Family of Man, almost overnight they began using this 
informal kind of photography, these snapshots, and it s continued until today. Up until that 
time it was a very stilted, almost a German school of photography that was used in advertising. 

Riess: Snapshots is really how you would characterize it? 

Miller: That s what these critics called them, snapshots. Because we had pictures in the exhibit that 
came out of family photo albums, and they were snapshots. 

Riess: And who found them? 

Miller: They came in over the transom~I mean they were sent to us by mail. We literally had mail 
bags that stood at least three feet high and eighteen inches across that came filled with 
submissions from all over the world. We had a couple of those every day for months. 

Riess: They were responding to ads? 

Miller: Well, to stories that Steichen had, interviews and what not. And requests by the museum for 
material for this work. It s amazing how they came in. I have an envelope from an early 
submission that came from Austria, I guess it was. And it was decorated with postage stamps, 
plastered willy-nilly all over the outside of this envelope. Somebody evidently felt very strong 
and lovingly about their submission so they really decorated it well before they sent it in. I 
have that in my collection, I had to hang on to that. So they were literally snapshots. I m not 
applying that to all the pictures, because many of them were fine photographs. But this was a 
representation by more than a select group of professionals. These pictures came from 
families from all parts of the world, and from all levels of understanding. 


Riess: What did you do with the rejected family photographs? 
Miller: They were all returned. 
Riess: You said you had a registrar. 

Miller: I m trying to remember the name of this one woman Kathleen Haven. She was a fine artist in 
her own right, and she was the number one worker for us. Then we had other women who 
came in and worked with her handling paperwork and helping us send the photographs. Joan 
did secretarial work for Steichen while she was there, and eventually she left Steichen s 
Museum of Modern Art office and came over and worked with us in the selection of the final 

The Millers, and Steichen 

Miller: That was another thing. Joan provided another quality that was important to Steichen. She 
provided a family glue that was important to him. Because when I was with him, Joan was 
quite close by. If not working on the job, in our apartment or on weekends. And Steichen 
enjoyed young women. The best way I can describe it, he enjoyed that sense of fertility and 
richness of raising, having children. He loved being with our children, and Joan became a 
kind of an earth goddess to him. That created an ambience that is important in this thing. I 
have photographs made during this period of Steichen relating to our children and to Joan. It 
gave him another comfort. 

Riess: She was used to also make some decisions. 
Miller: Definitely. 

When we had gathered together a working collection of about 10,000 photographs then we 
started putting together a show. We finally got it down to about 1 ,000 photographs, and 
Steichen said this is much too many, we ve got to get it down further. He thought about 400 
would probably be about right, that a museum audience couldn t look at more than that. So we 
worked very hard and finally got it down to about 750. But we felt that we just couldn t drop 
any of these pictures, because by this time each of these pictures had become members of the 
family, we felt very close to them and couldn t imagine dropping any of them. 

He said we have to go further and drop some of these. I remember he said, "Let s do it this 
way. Joan, you look at these panels that have to do with lovers, and pregnancy, and 
motherhood, birth and motherhood, and that sort of thing, mother-child relationships, and you 
make the decision on which we should drop. And Wayne, you take care of this other area, 
young men, workers, and so forth." He said, "I ll take care of the rest of it." 

Well, that was a great idea, made good sense, and we worked very hard for probably twenty- 
four hours on this level before we were all back in it together. 

Riess: Then would he second guess you? 


Miller: Each of us would second-guess the other. We d all be back together and he would say, Well, 
you can t take that one out." We struggled. And you realized that in a practical sense you have 
to make decisions. So we dropped many fine photographs, no question. But this was not an 
exhibit of fine photographs. This was an exhibit of a concept, a display of "how photography, 
as an art form, could express qualities of mankind." So the pictures we used were not 
necessarily the finest photographs. 

Riess: They were sharp? They were good in black and white? 

Miller: No, not necessarily. But they might work against another picture to say something that one 
picture could not, alone. And it helpedsome of these pictures were used as connecting links 
to the next theme. 

Riess: In the last cut might you wish to apply a judgement that went to more aesthetic issues? Where 
did the aesthetic enter in the decision-making? 

Miller: The aesthetics took care of themselves, in that to be a picture that s really meaningful the 

aesthetics are there, the composition is there. You don t have to worry about that. I remember 
a statement Steichen made at one time. He said, There s not much you can do to hurt a good 
picture. There s not much you can do to help a bad one." I m talking about in the way of 
printing it, cropping it, and so forth. So a good picture works. And it has the composition, it 
has the aesthetics, they all go with it. And it s able to stand alone. 

Paul Rudolph. Designing the Exhibition 

Riess: You talk about one picture leading to the next, as if there is a verbal statement that underlies 
the whole thing. What about the text, the little divisions and themes, did they get tweaked a 

Miller: Oh, yes, continuously. I think it s fair to say that the pictures made the exhibition. They, in 
effect, selected themselves. And the categories we ended up with were really selected by the 

It wasn t a case of starting out with a list of categories and finding the pictures to illustrate 
them, that wasn t the case at all. We gathered these photographs together and started putting 
those pictures that were related to one another in different categories. And if we found in 
some cases these categories didn t make sense, we d break it up. A very crude example is that 
one time we had a category of laughing faces, and another of crying faces pictures. And I 
remember coming in one morning and looking at them, and I thought, "My god, this is asinine. 
The two panels look alike!" Crying pictures and laughing pictures, they both looked alike. 
And also, laughing and crying are part of life, not separate from it. So we moved those things 
to where they more appropriately fit in. 

Riess: Decisions about what size to print, was that ongoing, or was that the final decision? They re all 
different sizes, aren t they? 


Miller: Yes, that was a decision made by Steichen together with Paul Rudolph, the architect. Paul, I 
don t know if he was at the time, but he became eventually head of the architecture school at 

It was fascinating dealing with Paul. He was a very young man, schooled in architecture, and 
his first efforts, the sketches he made, looked like a clothesline. He hung these things on a 
clothesline, that was his way of exhibiting the pictures. I remember Steichen s real 
wonderment about that, and he met with Paul and talked with him about these things, and Paul 
went back to the drawing board and came back with another treatment. This one was 
juxtaposing pictures by colorI m talking about the amount of blacks in one group, the 
number of whites in another. And it completely missed the point. So Steichen had to go back 
and wrestle more with Paul. He spent a lot of time working with Paul on this, because Paul 
was not thinking about what was in the picture, he was thinking about the picture as a graphic 
thing itself, devoid of subject matter. So size and all was a joint effort. I think probably 99 
percent Steichen and one percent Paul. But Paul did a fine job. When he finally got the swing 
of it all, it worked fine. 

Riess: Was Steichen influenced by that graphic, aesthetic take? 

Miller: I think so. I don t remember how it came about the display of the family pictures, family 

groups we had, they were quite large, and they were hung from the ceiling. And they were in 
a group, in the center of the exhibition separate panels hanging, and different juxtapositions. 
So no matter where you stood, you could see more than one family. This really worked very, 
very well. 

And it was interesting, during the exhibition itself I became aware that in front of an Asian 
group, Asian spectators were standing. And in front of the Middle Western family group, 
Middle Westerners were standing there looking at themselves. It was fascinating. I imagine 
that Paul had something to do with that hanging, because that was the core, you see. This is 
the family, this is the core of the exhibition. And you had to walk around this to see the other 

Paul also, from a design point of view, used some white quartz rock, small pebbles, along the 
edges of the walls in some cases, primarily in the center area where the family was and under 
the family presentation he had also this gravel there. 

Riess: So that you walked on it? 

Miller: Well, it was not intended for walking on it. It had a little block around the edges, and a little 
area filled in inside of it. I remember at the opening of the exhibition I was standing at one 
side with Paul. We were watching the people move through it. It was quite jammed. He said, 
You know, I never visualized this with people in it." [laughter] And as a result, we found that 
people were walking on this gravel, and it was getting kicked around, so we got the gravel out 
of there. I think the gravel remained under the family pictures, but it didn t work the way-it 
looked beautiful, it just was exquisite, but it didn t quite make it. 

Riess: Off tape you talked about the Gene Smith image of the children on the sunlit path. Would you 
tell me about that on tape. 


Miller: The last picture we had in the exhibition was Gene Smith s quite famous picture now called "A 
Walk in Paradise Garden," or something of that nature. And, it shows his children, the backs 
of them, walking out from what could be a cave, walking out into the sunlight. Anyway, 
they re surrounded by foliage. It s a very lovely picture. 


21. Story continues p. 128. 



[Interview 6: October 24, 2001]## 

Photography in Museums 

Riess: Let s talk briefly about demise of the Friends of Photography and the Ansel Adams Center 
[October 2001] and about photography museums and photography in museums. 

Miller: I m ill-equipped to talk about that sort of thing, Suzanne. I ve sort of shied away from any 

effort to be shown in museums. I mean, I just don t pursue that. Once in a while if I m asked 
to do it, and it s convenient, I ll do it. But I don t seek it out. Now, that doesn t mean that it 
isn t important, it s just that for me, I don t feel that need somehow. It s not a lack of respect, I 
don t think, but a lack of interest, maybe. I just can t explain it, I never thought about it, really. 
It might be that I enjoy the making of the picture rather than the seeing of it. 

Riess: You go to the exhibitions, the openings at the San Francisco Museum, the Oakland Museum? 
Is it showing the flag or something? 

Miller: It s showing the flag more than anything else. It s going to see the people who show up. 

Riess: You have a closer relationship with the Oakland Museum than the San Francisco Museum, 
don t you? 

Miller: No, not necessarily, no. I don t know what you mean by that. I m closer physically to the 
Oakland Museum than San Francisco, but as far as the curator goes, I only know the man in 
Oakland, Drew Johnson, casually. Sandra Phillips in San Francisco, I know her personally. I 
understand Sandra better than I do Drew Johnson. 

Riess: What do you mean "understand?" 

Miller: Her involvement with photography and concerns for aspects of it I m more understanding of 
than I am Drew Johnson s. I m not knowledgeable about, or I don t feel close to his treatment 
of photography. I don t feel he has as pointed a direction in photography as does Sandra, so 
it s just hard to know. But I don t have as close a relationship as I might with either of them. 

A relationship with someone of that nature can be social. And I can certainly enjoy that with 
Sandra, and I have enjoyed it with her and have great respect for her. But that s about it. I 
haven t worked with either of them in the preparation of an exhibit, exhibits, or in any aspect 
of things. I have been with Sandra a couple of times in this [SFMoma] photographic auxiliary, 
I guess you d call it, called the Foto Forum, I ve attended a couple of those. In fact I gave a 
presentation before Foto Forum. They re a group of people who are supportive of the 
photography department at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They re collectors, 


many of them, and others are just aficionados or concerned with photography. And they help 
support the department by making either gifts of money or photographs that may be of interest 
to Sandra. 

Riess: There are so many approaches to this business. I shouldn t assume that the goal for a 
photographer is to be shown at a museum, that that is the highest point? 

Miller: The highest? To know I ve done a good job, that s the highest point I can reach. Whether it be 
in a magazine or a show. 

You know, it s a funny thing, I may be embarrassing myself, but many people who show up at 
these exhibitions I don t think really look at the pictures. They make all these remarks about, 
"This is great, that is great," and I don t have much respect for them. I feel kind of 
embarrassed, and maybe even a little dirty, by having those people pawing over my images 
and making remarks about how they like this or how they like that when in some cases I can t 
help but doubt their sincerity, or the words they use. I just don t feel comfortable. Some of 
these exhibitions, the same people show up at these different exhibitions, and I don t know if 
they particularly like the pictures or if they like the fact that the room is warm, I don t know. I 
don t have as much respect for some museumgoers as I might. 

Riess: One of the comments in the article about closing the Ansel Adams Center was from Jeffrey 
Frankel. He says, "When the Friends of Photography was founded thirty-five years ago, 
photography needed friends. Now that photography has entered the mainstream, the pressing 
need of such an organization is not as great as it was then." 

Miller: I m sure that s true. Especially at the beginning. Because museums turned their backs on 
photography, the Museum of Modem Art, for example. When they got involved with The 
Family of Man exhibition, as I understand it there was a struggle for Steichen to get this 
concept accepted or supported by the Museum of Modern Art. Because so much of that group 
in the museum didn t consider photography worthit should not be "contaminating" art by 
being shown in the same building. The idea of giving it this kind of a platform was 
unprecedented. It was only because I think Rene d Harnoncourt and Nelson Rockefeller 
supported it. And for photography to come into a museum, that is in the front door rather than 
the back door, that was most unusual, that kind of acceptance. 

The Ansel Adams Center was a good example of that, where he provided the platform to make 
it acceptable. 

Riess: Down there in Carmel. 

Miller: Yes. And he was a big booster of photography as an art form. Not photojournalism, which he 
couldn t stand. But fine art, yes. So he was straddling that transition to museum acceptance, 
and he was able to handle that by the way he treated his photographs, and the respect and 
dignity he gave them. Others, of course, that came along at the same time, Weston and others, 
provided this respectability or a status that photography hadn t had. So this was a period 
whereearly photography, early images were imitating paintings, and little by little they 
started moving away from that and became the photographs we know today. 

But, as far as Ansel s, I don t know, I think it was a tough job. I think the Ansel Adams Center 
was a creature of its time, and when it began to compete with other platforms for viewing 


images, then it got in trouble. Also I understand they had some managerial or personality 
problems there that probably contributed to it. But that s too bad that that happened. I think 
the people who were trying to make money out of Adams s heritage-that probably contributed 
to its demise. 

Riess: If you re going to have galleries you have to be creating a market, you have to be creating 
collectors. It s not like a museum, where you go and wander around. It s a shop. 

Miller: Well, your gallery begins to pander to the client, and it s a lost cause when you do that. 

Because you re always trying to excite the clients, and I think that s an impossible business to 
be in. As you know, there are so many exhibits today, I think the curators are competing with 
other curators. So, it s a tough business. 

Shirley Burden 

Riess: You have a friend, Shirley Burden, who s a photography collector. Maybe that s a way to 
approach this matter of museums and collectors and so on. 

Miller: Yes. Shirley was an exceptional man. He was very concerned with photography. I remember 
having lunch with him one day at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and he was about 
forty-three then~I don t know why I remember his ageand he said that he wanted to become 
a photographer, and he didn t know how to do it. I think I probably said, "Just go out and take 

He had this strong feeling of wanting to be involved in photography, and he spent time 
photographing Lourdes, in France. It was because his wife was a Catholic. I don t remember 
why she was especially involved with Lourdes, but he became Catholic because he loved Flo- 
Bee. Her name was Florence, I guess, Flo-Bee. He just adored her, so he took up Catholicism 
and spent time at Lourdes making photographs. I think he did about two different books on 
Lourdes, sensitive, lovely books. And this commitment of his was really quite loving. I think 
it represented a desire on his part to be involved in something that was his. He came from a 
very wealthy background, and I think it waswho was the old commodore in the years? 

Riess: Vanderbilt? 

Miller: Vanderbilt. He did a photo essay on the settling of an estate of a Vanderbilt. He shows his 

mother or aunt at the docks at Le Havre in France waiting there to board the ship together with 
all the documents she had gathered in France to come back to New York. Then he also 
photographs in the vaults of a bank in New York: a man, an employee of the bank obviously, 
dressed in a cut-away kind of suit, is pulling a little cart that s heaped with documents, bonds, 
I guess, and securities. He goes through this story in a series of photographs, and it was such a 
personal thing, I asked him, "Are you going to be able to publish this?" He said, "I don t think 
so." But he wanted to, because this was the settlement of an estate of I forget how many 
millions of dollars. And he felt, and he expressed it to me, that he was kind of the bottom of 
the line, and these people were dying off, and all the money was coming to him. Millions and 
millions of dollars. 


He was a very good businessman. I could tell you some of the funny little stories about him. 
His brother Bill, older brother, was very much a businessman. He became president of the 
Museum of Modern Art. And I was told that Shirley was a better businessman than Bill but he 
kind of gave it up. He wanted to do other things. I remember one time he told me thathe 
apologized for being late for a meeting. He sold some real estate in New Jersey, I think it was 
Trenton, New Jersey or something. And it came out that it was twenty-three acres of 
downtown Trenton he had just sold! 

He was charming all the way along. He expressed the desire to finance an institution just for 
photography. And he wanted to have it do this and do that. I listened to it, this great 
enthusiasm he had, and I said, "Do you have someone in mind to handle this, put it together?" 
"No," he said, "I just have this idea." I just felt that was maybe not the best way to go about it 
and I said, "Shirley, I think you ought to figure out who you want to have run this before you 
start putting it together." Nothing ever happened as a result of it. But he did have that desire 
to participate in any way he could. In fact, he was the angel behind Aperture magazine as I 
understand it. So, he was involved. 

One time talking with him he said, "Wayne, what would you like to do in photography? Do 
you have any ideas of some story you d like to do?" And I said, Yes, I d like to do a story of 
the Hudson River Valley. Just go from the very top where the waters first start gathering to 
make the river, and ending up down below New York City." About twenty years later the 
phone rings and there s Shirley on the phone. He said, "Wayne, that story you wanted to do on 
the Hudson River, I d like to have you do it for Aperture." I said, "Shirley, I did it that about 
ten years ago for National Geographic." Anyway, he had remembered that and he had pursued 

There are so many nice little stories about Shirley. He had his home, apartment, in New York 
City, 72nd Street between Park and Lexington, I think it was. Or between Fifth Avenue and 
Lexington. The apartment was two stories. They had created an access from one story to 
another by putting a staircase inside going up through the ceiling. It was very lovely. Also he 
had a darkroom in the basement, and I printed much of my book The World is Young in his 
darkroom. I worked with the publisher to learn, among other things, what quality print would 
be best for the reproduction, the printing of the book. And I learned that they wanted a flatin 
my mind muddy print in order to match the printing press capabilities. The prints I had in 
hand were too snappy for that printing press, so I had to reprint them, and I reprinted them in 
Shirley s darkroom. In fact, I have some of those early prints that were sent to the printer, I 
have some of them here, and they look really muddy, really terrible. But it was for a reason. 

He was such a sweet, charming man. Dorothea Lange may have told you about going to a 
wedding of one of his children or grandchildren in Beverly Hills. She talked about how 
magnificent it was. It was built in the slope of a hill. And they had this large swimming pool 
there, and down below it had a second swimming pool. It was grand beyond belief and she 
enjoyed being able to say that in order to find a proper gown to wear to this she went to the 
Salvation Army or some place, a thrift shop, and bought the gown that she wore to this 
wedding! And I m sure she looked grand in it. She liked Shirley a great deal. 

Riess: You said Shirley Burden founded Aperture with Minor White? 

Miller: I don t know about the founding of it, I just think he funded it. He wasn t interested in his 
name being on things as much as seeing them take place. 


Another little thing about Shirley. Again, I was having lunch at the Museum of Modern Art, at 
the restaurant up there with Shirley and with Robert Frank. Robert was saying he had just 
been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and how pleased he was with it and all this money. 
He said he was going to be able to take off and do all kinds of things. And it came out that 
Robert said he had gotten $10,000. Shirley said, "My god, I can t move out of New York City 
to go to my home in California for $10,000!" [laughter] 

Darkrooms and Papers and So On 

Riess: This printing in his darkroom, aren t darkrooms very personal? Wouldn t it be difficult to find 
your way around someone else s darkroom? 

Miller: No. It s strange, of course, but I think that within minutes you can locate yourself and adjust 
yourself. A darkroom is a darkroom, it s not anything special. It is personalized, but it sat 
least I can adjust without any trouble at all. I m sure everybody else can do the same way. 

Riess: So, is that a kind of courtesy thing among photographers? Robert Frank printed out here in 
your darkroom, didn t he? 

Miller: He didn t print. Much of his Guggenheim work on The Americans he developed in my 

darkroom, just the negatives. And he edited them. Interestingly, he edited them by holding 
the negatives up and looking at the images and then took a pair of scissors and cut out those 
that he wanted to save and he discarded the rest without making any contact prints. I thought 
it was quite courageous to do that. But he made his decisions and just went on. 

Riess: And these were 35mm negatives? I mean, it s so clumsy to deal with these little things. 

Miller: Well, not really. Life magazine up until, I believe, close to the end of the war did not make 
contact prints, as I recall. The picture editor would look at the negatives and make a half- 
circle punch on the edge of the 35mm negatives, so that the fellows in the darkroom could run 
their hands along them and find which one was to be printed. He read the negatives and in 
effect edited them in that form. 

Riess: I thought you were saying that Robert Frank actually cut them up. 

Miller: Well, he separated them so he ended up with a bunch of separate little pieces. But he some of 
them were strips and some were as I recall, that s the way it was. I know he ended up with an 
awful lot of scrap negatives there, but I don t remember the ones he saved, whether they were 
separate frames or whether they were strips, I don t know. He threw an awful lot of it away. 

Riess: How did you maintain your darkroom? Did you buy your chemicals locally, and your papers 
and all that? 

Miller: I just went down to the local camera supply store, really, a professional store. In Chicago I did 
that. And I d buy my chemicals. My hypo for fixing the film and the paper, I used to buy that 
in fifty pound bags, and I d buy a gallon of acetic acid and other to mix with it. But no, I never 
was a chemist. I used the standard packaged developers. Some photographers love the 


chemistry aspect of it, and that s one of the nice things about photography, that there are so 
many variable ways to enjoy it. The chemistry of the darkroom, that s where Ansel Adams 
was a wizard. And others like equipment, they have to have all this special equipment. There 
are so many ways to enjoy photography. Others just enjoy the print. Some enjoy all of it. So, 
there s a place for everybody in the field of photography. 

Riess: Did you experiment with selenium toning and stuff? 

Miller: No, I never did that. I should have, I guess, because it seemed to preserve the print, give it 

longer life than it might otherwise have. And there are special washers you can buy for black 
and white, for your prints. It gives them an archival quality and so forth. But you know what, 
recently I ve been digging out prints that I made back in the late 40s, and they re of subject 
matter that I ve been reprinting for my exhibitions now in the year 2000, and the prints look 
almost the same. The quality held up, and is consistent. I don t know how much better they 
would be today, those older prints, if they had gone through a selenium toning. I m sure they 
would be different, but practically speaking, the old ones held up pretty well. 

Riess: And papers, did you fix on papers that you preferred early? 

Miller: Yes. I certainly did. In Chicago that was back in the late 40s when I was working on this 
Guggenheim and also free-lance work I had a nice little darkroom in the basement of my 
home that used to be a coal-bin. I got rid of the coal-bin and cleaned it up and we turned our 
furnace over to gas. So that became my darkroom. 

The paper I usedI was skimping along, didn t have much money, gosh, we had three kids at 
that tune and I worked as hard as I could at so many different jobs in order to get along. And 
Life magazine in Chicago had a darkroom, and Bob Johnson who ran it, a very good printer 
and all, we became good friends because I worked out of that Life office as well. And once the 
paper approached expiration date, Bob Johnson would throw the paper out. So that s what I 
had. I printed all my work on out-of-date Life magazine photographic paper. Johnson said, 
"Gee," he wondered what I did to get such good quality prints. And I said, "Well, out-of-date 
paper does it." [laughter] 

Riess: And were these graded papers? 

Miller: No, these were standard Eastman papers. 

Riess: I mean, they were not a contrast paper? 

Miller: Oh, pardon me, they were graded papers, one, two, three, and four. 

Riess: So that made a difference. You paid attention to that. 

Miller: Oh yes, certainly, you have to. But we didn t have polycontrast; polycontrast meant that one 
paper with filters would give you different grades. But part of that time we just had the 
graded, as you called it, the graded papers. 

Riess: And then the resin-coated papers came along? 


Miller: I guess so. I don t even know what resin-coated papers are. You mean, the ones that are kind 
of plastic? That s recent, very recent. 

Riess: When you were working on a job for Life you submitted the contact sheet, didn t you? Or the 

Miller: Well, both. It depends on the timeliness of the subject. Several times I did the assignment, 

returned to my home, went to the basement, developed the film, made prints and with the wet 
prints, riding in the back of a taxicab I laid them out on the seats so they d dry by the time I 
delivered them. 

Riess: Did you have darkroom disasters? Or do only amateurs have disasters? 
Miller: Well, I don t remember disasters. No, I don t think so. 

Riess: Did you use the darkroom to make up for exposure disasters? Or does a professional not have 
these disasters? 

Miller: Oh, you have disasters. Maybe a true professional is able to forget those things very quickly. 


Miller: I ve had disasters, not in the darkroom as much. But, I do remember more than once finding in 
my 35mm camera that I had not hooked the film up to the take-up spool. I thought I had film 
going through the camera, but it hadn t been, I hadn t made any photographs. That happened 
once or twice or more. But disasters, why I don t really remember any of those. 

Riess: Perhaps in this day and age, "disaster" is not the word to use. 

Miller: Or where you ve blown it. I have had problems where I d get on a job where my flash 

equipment was not functioning due to a bad cord of some sort. And a couple of times when I 
was using strobes would early strobes would drive us up the wall because they would short 
out and they would start flashing the lights without your touching anything. But, not really, no 

Riess: Darkroom expertise, is that something you like to help students with? 

Miller: Not really, and I must say that kids todayI ve had some show up and I d like to have them do 
some darkroom work for me and they get so interested in the chemistry. They call it 
"chemistry," and that was kind of a new term for me, but I kind of like the term now, it makes 
good sense. But they are so involved with the details of making prints and all that, it becomes 
an end in itself and I must say, the final results aren t very good. The straight print is pretty 
good, rather than fiddling around, "being creative," in quotes, in the darkroom. 


Riess: It seems that one of the things about being a photographer is you can t do it in isolation. It s a 
fairly social undertaking. A lot of conversations with people, a lot of business with people. 

Miller: Well, it is, it is. Sometimes your conversations about ideas bear fruit, and sometimes they 
don t. I told you about talking to Life magazine about wanting to do a picture story on the 
farmer s wife. I bring that up because when you talk to people about stories and it finally 
comes to pass, times have changed, years have passed, your own thoughts about it have 
changed, and somebody else s involvement has thrown in another variable. 

Now, there are other photographers who will have an idea, and they will take it to a magazine 
or a publisher, or somebody who is going to finance it, to help them on it. And they won t 
deviate from that. Gene Smith is a fantastically good example of that, where he does his thing. 
And there are other photographers that do that, where they have this idea firmly in their mind, 
and they re going to do it, and hands off, everybody. But there are not many sponsors who will 
go along with you on that sort of thing. 

So this isn t an Ansel Adams approach to photography, where you do your own thing. But 
Ansel also got involved in this sort of thing. He s done commercial things. Napa Valley, for 
example, he did a big story there, a big essay. And I imagine that some of the images he 
photographed were not necessarily high on his list that he d like to photograph. But in order to 
satisfy some of the interests of the clients, he may have included them. But we re talking 
about photographers who do their own thing and to hell with the rest of the world, like say a 
painter, versus some like myself, who use photography as a way of life and to make an 

Riess: The Guggenheim supports both kinds, I suppose. 

Miller: That s correct. The Guggenheim was a good example of pure photography. They didn t say 
anything about what they wanted. And, in fact, I also kept that concept private from myself, 
[laughter] I didn t know what I wanted, I just explored the area. Other people who have 
worked on Guggenheims I think have done the same thing. 

Gene Smith s "Paradise Garden" 

Riess: About Gene Smith, can I ask you to repeat the story that I lost last time about asking Gene 
Smith for a print of that image in The Family of Man? 

Miller: Oh yes. In The Family of Man, after we had made our final selections of what pictures we 

wanted to have in the exhibition we asked some local photographers if they d like to make the 
print for us, or would they give us the negative and we ll have the print made by Compo 
Photocolor in New York. Actually we wanted Compo Photocolor to make all of them so the 
prints would have a commonality and they would match the other prints quality-wise. And 
they were very good technicians. 

But in this case, because of Gene he wanted to make the prints, he didn t feel anybody could 
make the print as well as he could. And he invariably spent not only hours but days in the 
darkroom. In fact, in a Life story he would disappear in the darkroom and return, and you 


almost here he was seemingly weeks or months afterwards with a beard and other things and 
with the final prints. And it would drive the Life people mad. 

In this case we had a print that I d found in the Life morgue of what he [Smith] called "A Walk 
in Paradise Garden," something like that, of two children walking out from underneath this 
frame of bushes. A nice picture and we wanted to use it at the end of the exhibition. It was 
going to be about, maybe 30" x 40". 

I told Gene we wanted to do this and asked him if he d like to make the print, and yes, he 
certainly wanted to make the print. So I arranged for him to get the necessary paper and 
chemicals to do this, because his wife Carmen said, "Don t give Gene the money for it because 
he ll spend it on other things." So after he told me what he wanted I did get the materials for 
him. And I gave him a deadline, knowing that he was often not able to meet a deadline, of 
about three weeks early. So he took this material. 

Now the print we had that I d gotten out of the files had been handled a great deal and it had 
some cracks in it. It was dog-eared, and it wasn t a fine print at this point. So at the same time 

I gave these materials to Gene I sent the print from the Life files over to Compo Photocolor 
and asked them to make a copy of it, make a negative and make a print to size. Just so we 
wouldn t get stuck in case he didn t come up with the print. Later, when he did do it, we could 
always replace it. And sure enough, the deadline came and went and we had to put this copy 
print up on the wall. Because Gene hadn t shown up with his. 

A couple of weeks later Gene shows up with these photographs rolled up under his arm. We 
went up to the museum exhibition space in the morning because the museum didn t open to the 
public until noon. And I took this print that we had down off the wall, and he unrolled his 
prints. He had half a dozen of them there, different qualities, and he laid them out beside this 
print. I was worried about this because I know how he struggles and works so hard on it. He 
will darken this or lighten that, and he ll use ferro cyanide to bleach little bits. And the 
delicacies with which he treats a print are just great, they re very great. So I was interested in 
seeing how it would work. 

He laid his out, and he stood back there and looked at these prints. And he walked around a 
little bit and looked at them some more. Finally, he said, You know, I think the print you have 
on the wall is the best one. Let s use that one." [laughter] So he rolled his up and went along. 
That I think points out the fact, I believe, that when you make a photograph, a print of a 
photograph of larger than normal size, it picks up a new quality other than one of maybe an 

I 1 "x!4" or something. But one like this, maybe 30"x40", it has a new quality to it. 

Riess: Weren t you implying that one of the problems he was having was that he was maybe working 
with two negatives anyway so that he wasn t sure he was getting what he had gotten the first 

Miller: No, I didn t say that because I don t know thatthat this image was made from two negatives. 
That was a remark that I heard forty years later, that the original negative has never been 

Riess: For all those images in the show, I would hope you didn t have to do that much handholding. 


Miller: Well, it s interesting. In the exhibition we had a panel of three photographs, one above the 
other. One was an 8"xlO" by Edward Weston, and the second was by gee whiz, a 2 1/4", 
from a 2 1/4" negative. And the third was a 35mm negative that had been overdevelopedhad 
to be overdeveloped because it had been shot in room lighting during World War II, of a 
soldier coming back on leave and having a party there in the room. And these three images, 
8"xlO", 2 1/4" negative, and then a 35mm mounted one above the other they all seemed to be 
of equal quality. 

Riess: They were all printed the same size? 

Miller: All the same size. There was a difference, of course, but negligible to the viewer. So when 
you get to a larger size like this it becomes something different. 

March 1955. The Show Closes and Wavne Moves On 

Riess: Another story we lost, you told me you were asked by Rene d Hamoncourt if you wanted a 

Miller: Well, this was in the spring of 1955. The Family of Man exhibition had closed in March of 
1955. There was much cleaning up after the exhibition, returning prints and taking care of this 
and taking care of that. And so I was still in the museum area, maybe in May or June. Rene 
d Hamoncourt, the director of the museum, asked to see me, and I went up to see him. And in 
the conversation he asked me whether I d be interested at this point it was understood that 
Steichen was going to move on, he had done his thing and he wanted to move on, at least he 
was planning to Rene asked me if I would be interested in staying on and taking on that job as 
director of the department of photography. 

I was complimented, highly complimented, and realized then that I hadn t thought about 
anything like that. I also realized that I certainly wasn t the man for that job, because if I were 
to stay on I d be known just as a poor copy of Edward Steichen, and I couldn t begin to fill his 
shoes. Also I had other things I wanted to do that I d been having in my mind. So I very 
graciously thanked him and then said no. And I must say, it was the same day or the next day 
Steichen asked me, Well, what did you say to Rene?" I told Steichen, I said, "Captain , that 
job s not for me." I said, "Thank you, but it s not for me." 

Riess: "Captain?" 

Miller: That s what I called him. That seemed comfortable, rather than "E.J." which is what his 
contemporaries called him who knew him before the war, people like Grace Mayer at the 
museum and so on. Captain was his highest ranking. He so wanted to be an admiral, but he 
didn t make it. 

Anyway, "Good," he said I think he was worried that I might have taken it. He was, I think, 
being protective of me in that case, because a job like that is not just doing a job as director of 
photography, it s knowing how to swim with those other fish that fill this museum. And they 
are really a special breed of people. 


Riess: Are you talking about the other curators? 

Miller: Yes, the other curators. And the politics in a museum like that are just immense. Plus you 
need the ability to raise money for your own department. I couldn t have handled that, I felt 
like a fish out of water using that analogy in the museum. Because these people, I don t 
know what it is, they re strange people. 

Riess: Had Steichen stopped doing any of his own photography? 

Miller: Oh, he hadn t been doing any professional photography. He often made little snapshots, and 
we have many snapshots here that he made of our family. I think that after the war he didn t 
make any other photographs. 

Riess: Steichen stayed on, didn t he? 

Miller: He stayed on until he could find a replacement. And I think the replacement was a very good 
choice, John Szarkowski, who was not like Steichen in any way. John was an accomplished 
photographer, but his work was in architecture primarily. And he was an academic in many 
ways, he looked at photography differently than Steichen, which was great, to have that 
change. I think that worked out. 

On to The World is Younv 

Riess: Was it also that spring that you had your conversation with Jerry Mason? 

Miller: Oh, yes. After this exhibition was over and things began to quiet down I began to reflect on 
what I had seen and what I had experienced in looking for photographs to be considered for 
the exhibition. And I realized that I didn t find collections or groups of photographs where a 
photographer spent any real length of time photographing childhood. 


Miller: Margaret Bourke-White, I remember seeing one essay she had done in the Time-Life morgue, 
and it was in a steel file case, a four-drawer steel file case. In fact, there were two of these 
steel file cases, side by side, filled with H"xl4" prints standing on edge and organized that 
Margaret Bourke-White had made on one assignment in this small town. And it was a 
fantastic job. She had been sent there to do a story on education, grammar school education, 
so she photographed the children, the school, and all. Then she photographed the lives of the 
teachers. And then the lives of the children, and then the lives of the family, and then the 
family, what they did, the man at the factory, and the mother at woman s club, or what she did, 
she photographed them. 

And this factory, the large engine this man had worked on, she photographed it, she made 
pictures from a tripod, 4"x5", walking all the way around this engine. Then she raised the 
tripod, and looked down on it, and made it all the way around again. And then down low with 
the same thing. She had done it, she did the hospital, she did the city hall, and the city 
government. This was an education assignment! The only other person I can think of that 


spent any length of time on a subject like that was Dorothea Lange, and of course Doric spent 
her time on the farm workers. 

But, I didn t find anyone who had spent any length of time on children. So I thought that by 
golly, I ll do it. I d like to do it for as long as I can before I can t see it any longer, and can t be 
effective. I called Jerry Mason, who was the publisher of The Family of Man book. I had 
gotten to know Jerry by this time, charming guy. I said, "Jerry, I m going to be leaving town in 
a couple days, and I hope that you might have an opportunity--! hope that we can get together 
and talk. I ve got an idea." He said, "Well, Wayne, I m leaving town tomorrow or the day after 
tomorrow, and today I m just jammed up. In fact, I m leaving for lunch in about fifteen 
minutes." And I said, Where are you going to lunch, Jerry?" He had an office on Fifth 
Avenue, I think about 47th Street. He said, "I m going up to Michael s." That, I believe, is on 
54th Street. 

I said, "Jerry, let me come down and meet you and walk with you up to Michael s, because I ve 
got an idea I d like to share with you." Which I did, as we walked up Fifth Avenue. I told him 
about my desires, and that I wanted to work using my own family. We had four children at this 
time, two boys, two girls, and I wanted to photograph each of them and then their playmates 
and schoolmates up to puberty. Because they were now from three, four, years old until about 
ten or twelve. And I said I d like to have Erik Erikson, the child psychologist who had done 
that fabulous book called Childhood and Society, I d like to have him write the book. And 
because he s quite an academic, and sometimes a little hard to read because of that, I d like to 
get Ben Spock, who s a more popular writer, to rewrite Erik s words. I said, "I don t know how 
long it s going to take, but I d like to work on it until it gets done." 

Well, before we got to Michael s, Jerry had offered me a $10,000 guarantee to do it. So, in fact 
Iin hindsight it was great. I proceeded on it, I went back to California, I got started on this, 
and I worked for a period of three years on it. And the only reason I quit was because I 
couldn t see the subject any more, I lost my sensitivities to it, I d become too familiar with it. 
After about two years I d made up some prints and taken them to show to Erik Erikson. 
Actually, Jerry Mason set up a meeting and we went to Ben Spock s home in Cleveland, I 
guess, where he was teaching. Erik Erickson came with his wife Joan, and Ben was there and 
I think his wife Jane, and my wife Joan and I were there. 

And we looked at the photographs. I lined them all up against the couch and the cushions and 
the floor and all. We looked at them and everybody was happy, thought that s a great idea, 
we re on the road, we re going to do this thing. And Erikyou know it took a lot of chutzpah 
on my part to assume that this was going to work out. I d gotten to know Ben Spock because 
he had written a book together with a doctor by the name of Rhinehart around some 
photographs I d done for the Ladies Home Journal called Baby s First Year, and during that 
time I d gotten to know Ben, and he s a charming man. And when I had mentioned this idea to 
Ben Spock he said, "Great, I ve always wanted to work with Erik." And Erik made a similar 
remark, he said, "Gee that d be fine, I like Ben." So just by chance this young pushy 
photographer had come up smelling like roses. 

They conferred during this meeting, and everything was fine. I finally finished the job and I 
took some more photographs with me up to Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Erik Erikson 
was teaching in a clinic up there, and I showed him these photographs. And at that time he 
was working on a book of Martin Luther as a young man, Young Man Luther. And he looked 
at these photographs, and he said, "Wayne, I don t know what I could write. You ve said 


everything there is to be said about these kids in your pictures. I can t add anything to that." I 
can t help but feel that he was influenced by the fact that he was in the middle of writing a 
book and didn t want to get involved in something else. Anyway, I thanked him and picked up 
my pictures and went back to New York City. 

Riess: Were you a little dashed? 

Miller: I was really upset, devastated. I met Jerry Mason, and his face brightened, and he said, "Great, 
I was worried about this thing. I m happy." I was surprised and I said, "Fine, Jerry, but who s 
going to write the book?" And he said, "You are." Well, I m no writer, but with Jerry s help we 
cobbled this book together. And it seemed to come out all right. 

Riess: Well, it didn t just "come out all right," it was a great success. 

Miller: It was a great success. It s interesting because I know that doing this book I experienced 

childhood for the first time. I learned things I didn t know about childhood. And I think that 
maybe that was one of the reasons it was so popular on college campuses, strangely enough. 
At the Berkeley campus, on Telegraph Avenue, there were several bookstoresone in 
particular down around Bancroft had a sign that used to hang out over the street that they 
would advertise books on. And they advertised The World is Young, the name of my book, on 
that. It was a great seller on college campuses, it seemed to strike a nerve, I think because it 
talked about these experiences that children would go through. I think the college students 
maybe still felt some of those things or wonderments about them. 

Also in San Francisco, right in the heart of the financial district, Newbegin s had a bookstore. 
I think that was the name. The window was taken over completely with my book laid out and 
opened to different pages, and I just was bowled over to see it there, it was just marvelous. So 
it was well received, and it sold about 70,000 soft covers and about 10,000 hard covers. And it 
was talked about on a television show, I did a Linkletter show, I think. And some of the 
pictures, when I was working on the magazine Ladies Home Journal no, I m mixed up here 
because I was on a Dave Garroway show in Chicago one time with my photographs. I can t 
remember what that was about. 

It s interesting how those images have had such a life, that the book was picked up in 1 999 by 
a Japanese photo magazine. Is it because of the content, or what do you think? 

I don t know. I must say I think the Japanese photo bugs, they re interested in everything. So 
I got a good reception there. There was an exhibition in Tokyo, and we went to Kyoto, and we 
went someplace else, and I gave talks in each one of those cities. 

Do you think it s the curiosity about this intimate document of life in this country? 

I don t know. This book was athe subject matter was kind of a unique slice of time about a 
culture that no longer exists. This was the happy, suburban life. It was an age of innocence. It 
would be hard to redo some of this I think would be hard to do today. Much like the blacks in 
Chicago. That is a moment of time that has come and gone. 

Riess: Much like the farmer s wife, too. 



Miller: In my mind, yes. 


So there was a timeliness to it. That s one of the great values of photography. Once you make 
that picture, you ve created history. That picture is the past. You can t reproduce that same 
picture with that same quality. It s an amazing quality, a beautiful aspect of it that s just to me 
breathless and mind-boggling. The beauty of photography is that you have an unexposed roll 
of film and you put it in your camera, and you have the opportunity to make images that no 
one has ever seen before. The opportunity to capture understandings that the world s waiting 
for. And, it s~I guess an artist looking at a blank canvas must feel the same way, but it s I m 
forever impressed by this. 

Riess: In the late 1950s, besides the book you must have had all kinds of assignments. 

Miller: Magazines, I worked for every magazine. Magazine assignments were coming in faster than I 
could do them. I think it s because somehow or other people couldn t do magazine stories. 

American Society of Magazine Photographers 

Riess: On top of assignments and the personal project that became The World is Young, you were also 
involved in the American Society of Magazine Photographers. You joined in 1947, you were 
chairman in 1955. You ve referred to it elsewhere as a time of revolution. What were the 

Miller: It was a revolution, I guess. There was a disagreement, and I don t know what the 

disagreement was, between the president, who was Philippe Halsman, and someone else who 
was challenging Philippe on some subject. Both of these men were adamant and it threatened 
to break up ASMP. 

Riess: What does ASMP do? 

Miller: It started as an organization to represent photographers common needs. Not an agency, but an 
association. Because as freelance photographers we didn t have any kind of institutional 
structure to support ourselves, of course, and we needed help. I suppose you could say we 
pooled our ignorance as well as our assets to find ways to improve our lot, because otherwise 
the magazines with their assignments and all, they were controlling our lives and we didn t 
have any recourse. So we made an effort to bring some structure to these relationships. 

In fact Collier s magazine, I forget the details of it but we came to an impasse with them as far 
as working conditions and relationships, the amount of money they would pay us as well as 
ownership of all the materials. And so we came out with an ultimatum that we wanted such 
and such. Well, we found that if we did that we were going to be considered by the IRS, I 
guess it was, as a union. We couldn t do that under our existing conditions. And 
photographers, we all considered ourselves mavericks, and not wanting to be told what to do 
by anybody. The idea of being part of a union where we would no longer have control, the 
freedom that we would have as individuals, that became a problem. So this was part of the 
fuel that was heating up our problems in early ASMP days. 

I forget what happened, we had to back off from being this union deal. That meant we didn t 
have we couldn t call a strike, for example. So we had to work around that. In later years 


Magnum Photos, in the late 50s, we took similar positions. We refused to work for Life at one 
time, National Geographic another, until they agreed that the images we had photographed 
belonged to the photographer and they had publication rights. We held out and we won in each 
of these cases. But ASMP had some other aspects to it that I don t remember. 

Anyway, I was on the board of directors of ASMP at that time. I was asked to be president, 
and I felt that that would be not circumspect. Knowing Philippe Halsman s personality, he 
wouldn t like to be replaced. So I came up with the idea, "Let s call me Chairman of the Board 
instead of President," and that made everybody happy. So, I was Chairman of the Board for 
two years, I guess, or a year. I don t know what it was. 

Riess: What photographers did you represent? Did everyone join ASMP? 

Miller: No, I don t know how many. 

Riess: But, most magazine photographers? 

Miller: Many, many, yes. I remember my membership number was 222. 

Riess: It began in 44, and you joined in 47, so that s a lot of photographers. 

Miller: Yes, I don t know, they ve got many thousands now. 

Riess: How did they communicate at the time? 

Miller: Poorly. 

Riess: Was there a magazine or newsletter? 

Miller: We had a newsletter, that was about it. 

It was primarily a New York organization because that s where all the publishers were, and the 
editors, and the photographers. Living out here on the West Coast, it was about as far away as 
Zamboanga, or other places. I didn t actively participate, I don t remember when I did get 
involved with being a member of the board of directors of ASMP. It must have been 1953 or 

Riess: I see names listed here in the ASMP Picture Annual like Richard Avedon, Dorothea Lange, 
Edward Weston, Carder-Bresson. 

Miller: It was very inclusive. We were doing our best to get as many members as possible, for two 
reasons. One is for membership fees, and second to control the market, as far as establishing 
business practices. Until this group came along there was no structure to the magazine world 
and business practices. So it was important to have as large a membership as possible. 

Riess: The photojournalists out here-you mentioned Peter Stackpole, Fred Lyons, and Joe Munroe. 
Miller: And Jon Brenneis. 
Riess: Were you competing with each other for jobs? 


Miller: No. In fact, frequently it d be a case of if we d get an assignment and couldn t do it, we d get 
hold of the other one and have them take care of it. You see, I was under contract with Life and 
they were not. Stackpole was, but in the 1950s, why Stackpole was in Los Angeles. 

Magnum Picture Agency 

Riess: Then you were elected in 1958 to Magnum, "prestigious international photographers 
cooperative founded by George Rodger." 

Miller: George Rodger, Capa, Bresson, and David Seymour. Four of them. 

Riess: Why did they found Magnum? 

Miller: Well, again, to represent the interests of themselves. 

Riess: But ASMP? 

Miller: No, it s separate from ASMP. Magnum is a picture agency representing us, finding 
assignments for us and taking care of our individual needs. 

Riess: That s nice, I guess. Sounds paternalistic. 

Miller: Very much so. In fact, in trying to bring a little order, doing a little housecleaning when I 
became president, I found that we were taking care of the laundry for some of these 
photographers and paying alimony to some of their wives, and all kind of personal things! So 
we were doing more than just representing them to clients and taking care of professional 

Riess: How did one become a member of Magnum? 

Miller: You were asked to become a member. Initially I was invited to become a member in 1947, 

soon after they were put together. And I didn t accept the invitation because I had other things 
I was doing. I was back in Chicago doing my own thing, and I didn t feel the need for this. 
Also, I was in Chicago and this was a New York based outfit. New York and Paris, really. So, 
I felt out of the loop. And then came along The Family of Man, and I wanted to do this The 
World is Young on children out here. So again, I put off joining. Normally you are asked to 
become an associate for a year or two. Then if it works out, then you re asked to become a 

Well, in 1958 I guess it was, I decided that it made sense for me to be directly related to 
Magnum, and it came up again and I said I d like to do that. I skipped the associate business 
and became a member directly. I think it was somewhat unusual for them to do it that way, but 
we knew each other well and they had been handling some of my work anyway. Some of the 
stories I d done for further distribution, they would take care of it, even though it was informal, 
you see. I have things in my files, photographs that were stamped on the back in the late 
forties and early fifties that are Magnum. They had been informally distributing my work. 


Riess: It must have a huge structure. This is a big administrative thing. 

Miller: It is, it has developed into somewhat of a monster. We now have four offices, we have New 
York, Paris, London, and Tokyo. I think probably thirty, maybe forty photographers are 
involved in it and working out of these different offices. And the work is distributed 

Riess: How are they "involved"? Do you mean taking pictures, or printing and so on? 
Miller: I m talking about photographers out making pictures. 

And we have large staffs. In Paris, we have a staff of about twenty-eight people and a budget 
of over a million dollars. 

Riess: The photographers are out making pictures? 

Miller: For magazines, for advertising. Not for advertising, but for annual reports, per se. In the last 
few years, our work has started changing. It started out as being purely photojournalism, but 
then as new markets showed up we started moving into those. Then some of the 
photojournalism has begun drying up on the vine. 

There are very few pure photojournalism opportunities today. So there s a struggle today for 
photographers. Most of us have photojournalistic training, on the job training, and talents of 
that nature. What we ve done is try to adapt those to other photographic opportunities, which 
are books. And for a while there we were doing a log of annual reports for corporations, 
which paid very well. 

I did, and others did, work for on-site movie making where we would be hired by the movie 
company I told you about photographing John Wayne at a good daily rate, maybe a thousand 
or fifteen hundred dollars a day, to be there to make any photographs we would like to make, 
not to work for the company but because we had entree to magazines and publications and we 
would be doing stories that we thought we should do that would be of interest to editors. And 
then we would be paid by the magazines, as well. So we adapt our talents to these other 
circumstances. Today still some of us are working for National Geographic, but only a few 
because National Geographic can t handle too much. And let s see, what else? 

Riess: Corporate reports, still? 

Miller: They re not as prominent as they used to be. They used to be big, slick productions. But 
anyway, corporate yes, still corporate. 


Miller: [looking at reports] Here is the report of Magnum s annual meeting in New York. Here s the 
Tokyo report, here s the Paris report, here s one of the financial results. Another one I don t 
see a London report here, I m sure it s here someplace. Anyway, these give you an idea of how 
things have changed. 

Riess: I see they talk about the "team." 


Miller: Well, if you attended one of these meetings and heard what a struggle we have to get those 

jobs and all, you d realize that you re in the kennels lighting during feeding time. But I looked 
for this to give you an idea. Here is how it is broken down to stock sales, things out of the files 
that we resell. And then first sales, which are based on assignments. And then exhibition and 
print sales. And editorial assignments, that s another one. And advertising corporation 
assignments. So these are broad categories. 

Riess: "Priorities for next year: To be more project-oriented." 
Miller: Yes, well, those things are probably the same as they ve been for every year. 
Riess: "To think big." 

Miller: Now here s income from New York, 1.9 million. Just income from New York. And then 

expendituresthis is a peculiarity we have at Magnum, income is 1 .9 million and expenditures 
are 2.2 million. Somehow or other we do that all the time. 

And you see, the photographers own the association. 
Riess: So you re the stockholders, when it says, "Annual Meeting of Stockholders." 

Miller: Right. And the money we have to spend is the money the photographers brought in. And 
times have been a little tough lately, so now photographers are asked to leave in Magnum a 
cash balance and that becomes our working capital. At one time Magnum would take 40 
percent of our income for expenses, and the photographer would get 60. Now, I understand, 
it s reversed, Magnum gets 60, we get 40. But overhead, costs go up, that s a way of looking at 

Photographers by definition are terrible businessmen. And yet we ask of ourselves the talents 
to run an association of this magnitude. Now I m just talking about the New York office. Paris 
and others are similar budgets, maybe even larger, I don t know. So it ain t small potatoes 
when you think we re asked to come up with maybe three million dollars a year to pay for our 
own overhead, and maybe there s only thirty photographers producing. 

Riess: And you re still an active member? 

Miller: No, I m known as a contributor, a contributing member. That means I don t take any 
assignments, they resell my work from the files. 

Riess: With the same percentage? 
Miller: Whatever, I don t know what the percentage is. 
Riess: As far as the files go, do they create the prints? Or do they refer back to you? 

Miller: It varies, it varies. In many cases, they create the prints. We are now putting everything on 
computers. They have a big staff there. In New York there are five people, I think, doing 
nothing but handling computerization of the prints. My book, Chicago s South Side, is now on 
a disk. They can service requests for prints by transmitting that over the telephone or the lines 


s this disk at the other end of the line, and he s able to 
as well as black and white. 

has a set of those disks, Paris has a set. 


id f 11. 1 1 


.to pull the 

ibss terms, 



||t> upset ti 

is the kind 

isrs are 


dissension. Understandable and reasonable. Magnum Photos is a most unusual group because 
they will fight to the death to maintain quality. They have great respect for that and are 
embarrassed and unhappy when they can t do that. Sometimes we can t do it because we have 
to survive. So, these are the points of friction. 

Riess: How about Black Star, is that an equivalent agency? 

Miller: Black Star is a commercial operation. They hire photographersnot hire, but they. Black 
Star is an exceptional group. Oh, god, I can t remember the man s name. The man I m trying 
to think of is no longer alive, he died in the last several years. Black Star was made up by 
some German immigrants, German Jews, I believe, who developed this agency to supply the 
needs of clients. And they hired good people, and they hired good staff. This fellow, the one 
they hired, they kind of adopted him. These other men were older and he was young. But 
anyway, the three of them, the older three died off and he ended up owning the company. 
What s his name? Howard Chapnick. 

Black Star will take photographers they re not concerned particularly with quality but with 
ability to turn out some pictures. It doesn t have the stricture or measuring stick built into it. 
They did a fine job, very above board, and the quality of dealing with their photographers is 
impeccable. Not all photo agencies are that way. Some of them will cut comers and cheat the 

Riess: Is Magnum sort of a guys thing, or have you had women photographers? 

Miller: Oh, my, a lot of women. We ve had Eve Arnold and Inge Morath. Susan Meiselas. 

Riess: Would fashion photographers rum up there? 

Miller: No, we ll have photographers who have done some fashion, but no. 

We ve had people come in and leave, you know. Sebastiao Salgado, he was with us. And 
after a while he outgrew us. In other words, he found what he wanted to do and what Magnum 
could do for him weren t a good match. So he moved on. Gene Smith was with us at one time. 
We had a lot of people. Let me see if I can find a list. Women, yes, and some who have left. 
We have Martine Franck. We d be the first to embrace a talent, whether they ve got two heads 
or what they might be. 

Disaffection Sets I 

Riess: In 1967 you were interviewed for Popular Photography and you talked about creating a 

National Center of Photography to encourage and support young photographers. You had been 
talking about that with Paul Taylor? 

Miller: Yes, this was Dorothea Lange s idea. And 1967when did Doric die? I think 1965. Some of 
these ideas about helping photographers and doing this and doing that is a dated concept, I 
believe. It s premised on a time when there were markets, some way to support 
photographers. Now there s little market for photographers. For example, photographers are 


being taught in many schools to be photojournalists. But where are they going to practice 
that? It s like becoming an expert in making buggy whips, [laughter] 

In my mind, my orientation to photography, I can t go out and just make pictures unless I have 
a purpose for making them, a reason for doing it. Any reason. Do you want to put it on 
exhibit? Do you want to make some money from it? Do you want to hide them in your closet 
and look at them with a flashlight at night and just enjoy them? What is the purpose of your 
making the pictures? If you stop and think about that, it begins to delineate the size of your 
ballpark and why you re involved there. I think it s unfair to hold dreams out for people when 
there s no chance of their being realized. I don t know what you should teach photographers, 
what you should teach them in photographic schools. Maybe to make ads. But the Dorothea 
Lange concept, the school that Paul Taylor was discussing, is based on photography of the 
50s, you know, and before. And to perpetuate that sort of thing it s great to perpetuate it, but 
who s going to support it? And why should people? 

Riess: This was interesting that you were talking with Paul Taylor about such a center and at the same 
time, in the mid-60 s, deciding you had almost taken enough pictures. Unless I misinterpret 

Miller: Well, that s true, that s true. In 1967 I moved from here to Washington D.C. to work for the 
Department of Interior, the Park Service. I had fallen out of love with photojournalism, let s 
put it that way. I think that s a pretty apt description. I didn t have to do it anymore. My 
juices, my drives had become cold. It wasn t fun anymore. And I think in order to do a good 
job it has to be fun, you have to be excited by it. Now that s just very personal, but I think that 
many photographers might share some of these thoughts. In fact I may have mentioned it 
earlier, I don t know, I wanted to be more a part of what was going on around me. I no longer 
wanted to be a fly on the wall watching the world around me. I wanted to be part of it. I 
remember mentioning this one time to Eve Arnold and she said, "I know exactly what you 

You see, to do a photojournalism job we re not participating, we re observing, and we re doing 
our best to record what s happening. We re trying to be inconspicuous, we re trying to be "not 
there," but there. So it s a pretty lonely life. I think of the image of the traveling salesman in 
his hotel room at night with his suitcase on his lap. He s playing solitaire in bed. Well, much 
of that is part of the condition of the photojournalist. You are alone, you don t want to 
interrupt the happening. You re not choreographing, you re not directing what s going on. 
Anyway, I wanted to be part of this world I was photographing. I was wanting to move not 
consciously, but subconsciously I guess I was beginning to move away from it. 

Riess: That s interesting. There s an illusion that you re part of the party when you re there with your 

Miller: Yes, and frequently when we take a picture of a group of people eating in a dinner setting, 

there s one space that isn t filled. It s empty, because you re taking the pictures. It s something 
we learn to look out for, trying to fill up that space until we finish our pictures. Then we can 
sit down and eat with them. 

Riess: You were working up to this? Or was there some crucial moment when you decided? 


Miller: Well, I became aware that because I was no longer excited by my work, my work was not as 
good. Thinking about an athlete, after a while you don t run as fast, and you don t hit as many 
baseballs as you used to hit. The time comes to hang it up. 

But I had to keep making an income, so I kept plodding away. I should have stopped in the 
mid-60 s, instead it was the mid-70 s. 

Did I tell you my story about the dogs? I got a call from People magazine asking me to 
photograph these Shar-Pei dogs, Chinese dogs, that belonged to a man who lived a few miles 
from Orinda, in a subdivision in Concord. He d been successfully raising these very rare and 
expensive dogs in his backyard. It was a rainy day when I went out, and as I entered his little 
ranch house you could smell the dogs. The walls were covered with blue ribbons. He took me 
to the backyard to see the dogs and there was no grass, just mud and dogs. 

Now, how to photograph at eye level was a problem. I found some cardboard to put on the 
mud to get down there with the dogs, and lay out flat and twisted my neck around and looked 
them in the eye and made quite a few photographs. But while I was there on the ground I said 
to myself, "Why is a grown man doing this?" I began to wonder, should I continue as a 
photojournalist if it means doing this sort of thing? Anyway, I shipped the photographs off to 
People in New York, and they in turn shipped it off to People in Paris. I later received a 
telegram from Paris, after their publication, to say, "This is the most popular story we ve ever 
run"~which told me something about the French, too. 

But in hindsight, this really was the beginning of my decision to pack it in, and this was in 
mid-1975. That was when I realized, you know, get out of here. It s a strange thing when 
you ve been doing something all your life or professionally, all your professional life-and 
you decide to step aside from it. You feel that somehow you re failing. You shouldn t do that, 
it s not the proper thing to do, you should hang in there. But there s more to life than taking 



[Interview 7: December 17, 2001]## 

Steichen and the Millers 

Riess: I want to talk about the Steichen relationship a bit more. How did you and he continue to 
relate, or did you continue to relate after you left New York? 

Miller: Oh sure, because he continued to come out here. After he left New York, his second wife, 

Dana, died, and he called within hours of when she died to talk to us about it. How he held her 
in his arms till she died. 

He didn t have family per se, in my mind. Or he didn t have family where he could just call 
and schmooze with his family and kick things around. Their relationship, I don t believe, had 
as many of those qualities as he d like for it to have. I think that Joan and I filled in some of 
those needs that he may have had there. Then he would come out here and spend time with us, 
during the summer months. 

Riess: Was he evolving into just being a friend, rather than a mentor or a father figure? 

Miller: He was a friend, rather than the others. And we had photography in common, as a subject 
matter. But I didn t have a list of things that I wanted to talk to him about regarding 
photography, never that. It might come up in conversation. It was talking about life in general 
that was our common interest. He loved our children. I don t know if I showed you pictures 
of him and our family. He loved it when we d go on a picnic, or to the ocean, or to go up to 
our forest land on the Ten Mile River in Mendocino County and spend time with us there. 

Riess: Maybe it was harder for him than it was for you, that you left New York. 

Miller: Well, I did not feel any second thoughts about leaving New York, I was happy to get out, and 

r when he 

"T "HI ~T"~ 

ai iHla<.fe; 

is m 


She was a very active professional woman in her programshe established a group called 
SIECUS, about teaching sex to teenagers. She s very active in that and wrote a book or two. 
And she s very active in Planned Parenthood. She was very much like Steichen himself, and 
wanted a closer relationship I think with him than what seemed to work out. 

Riess: Did Steichen ever consider moving out here? 

Miller: Well, not really. He did think about buying some timberland one time, and actually made an 
inquiry about it, up close to ourselves. But it wouldn t have worked out, just as well it didn t. 
Knowing him as I do, I m sure he considered it, like he considers everything. An exceptional 

But as far as our relationship goes, it lasted up until he died. In fact, I got a telephone call from 
Joanna, his third wife, saying he was in bad shape, and so I went to his home, outside of 
Ridgefield, Connecticut, and was with him when he did die. In factwhen I closed his eyes I 
felt that this was truly the end of him, of that aspect of him. It was really saying goodbye to 

Becoming Forest Landowner 

Riess: Now let s turn to forestry. What inspired that purchase in 1958? 

Miller: I did a story for Life magazine in 1951 or 1952, an overnight job for Crown Zellerbach up in 
Washington State, and I saw these young trees and I just thought they were beautiful. I came 
back and I talked to Joan about it and I said, maybe this is a way for us to be involved in 
California agriculture. She always wanted to be involved in agriculture here, because Joan 
had a background in small town, Urbana, Illinois, and she had some farmland there. And for 
some reason or another, I felt very close to farmland, and we d been thinking about how to get 
involved with farming. 

We d learned early on that farming in California is like going to Reno, it s not for city folks. 
We put it out of our minds until I came back with this idea of trees, and we thought about that, 
and Joan took to it immediately. So we spent the next six years researching the subject at the 
University of California at Berkeley. And during that time we learned how to read aerial 
photographs, and we learned about soils, learned where trees grew fastest, and problems of 
raising trees. We began looking for timberland, and considering all these variables, we found 
that the Sierras is not the place to be. You had fire problems, you had people problems, insect 
problems. Also the trees there were not doing as well as they might. So we looked at the north 
coast. At that time people just didn t go to the north coast, they all went to the Sierras; that s 
where people had their second homes, and it was not very attractive, socially, to be in the north 

Anyway, we found out that considering all the variables, the best place to be would be around 
Fort Bragg. It was a redwood region, and redwood trees grow best where there s fog, because 
they get a lot of their moisture from fog. We learned that people and trees don t go together, 
and it was recommended by somebody to find an ownership that s surrounded by a big timber 


company, and they ll provide a heat shield for you for keeping people out. Also they ll fight 
your fires for you, to protect themselves. 

Riess: What s the people issue? 

Miller: Well, people don t like to see the trees that they can see, cut down. We were interested not in 
trees per se, we wanted to think about it as a business. Also, trespass-they can inadvertently 
set fire to something, they can be injured. 

Riess: So trees were already quite political? 

Miller: No, not really at all at that point in time, it seemed like the alphabet hadn t been invented. 
Since then it certainly has been changed. 

We started looking for land and we finally located a piece. It just met everything we wanted. 
It had the best soils and all the qualities, just couldn t be better. It was twelve hundred acres, 
and we bid on this. We found a realtor that was offering it for sale. The reason it was being 
offered for sale was that industry in the area, the Union Lumber Company in that area, and 
others, didn t want land where the virgin trees had been cut off. They didn t see any value in 
the second growth trees. Actually, there s more than enough value in the second growth trees 
to pay for it. But they considered it brush land, so we didn t have any competition in buying it, 
thank god. 

So we bought that, and then we didn t do anything with it for fourteen years, something like 
that. And then we began to add to it. We found an adjacent piece that was in the middle of 
this property that we added to it, and we kept buying other pieces. Now we have 1850 acres, 
and we re still interested in adding to it. We re bidding on another piece. I hope it works out, 
it could add another 450 acres to it. But I m getting ahead of my story here. We bought it 
originally because it was just so damn beautiful, and that s about all I can say about it. 

Riess: Does it have a terrain? 

Miller: Oh yes, it s hilly as can be. Up and down, has a little pond on it, which is an old mill pond 
from earlier logging. We re a mile and a half from the ocean. Some parts of it really looked 
like a war-zone, just nothing there. Since then it s grown back, and I can show you some 
photographs that give you an idea of what I m talking about. 

Riess: Did you inter-plant trees? 

Miller: Well, if you cut a redwood tree down, the redwood tree sprouts from its stump, and if you 
wanted to get rid of redwoods, you couldn t. 


Miller: [looking at photo] This is what the property looked like in 1958. That s Edward Steichen. 
Here s the old mill site, here. 

Riess: And the logging roads churning right up through it. 


Miller: Right. And down in the bite of this bend, you can t see it, there s a little brushy area, and it s a 
redwood clump. That was in 1958. I measured it a couple of years ago and that tree s now a 
hundred and twenty feet high and thirty inches through. And that s what it looks like in 1978, 
you see? It gives you an idea of what can happen in a redwood area in just twenty years. So 
you see these same trees here. 

Riess: Did you eliminate the roads? 

Miller: No, we re still using them. Most of them are skid-roads, but there s a main road that goes up 
through there, a truck road. 

Riess: You did a lot of research. I think that s interesting. 

Miller: Oh, my yes. To a reasonable degree, we know forestry, as far as California, redwood forestry. 
we re committed to this forest land. We will do anything to help that soil grow better trees. 
Whether that means planting some other trees, or pruning trees, or protecting it from 
destructive erosion, or giving better spacing to these trees so they can grow better. Whatever it 
might take, we will do that in order to enhance the productivity of that soil. That means maybe 
leaving some trees that otherwise would be marketable, but we know that if they get bigger 
they will be putting on greater wood per year than they would if they were smaller. The 
diameter. So we re careful, we re not greedy when it comes to the forest. Using a Ben Spock 
idea, we re "permissive foresters." We ll do anything we can to help those trees grow. 

I don t know if I ever showed you our management plan, did I? [goes to get plan] 

When we plant five or ten thousand trees a year it s not because we re trying to get our money 
back, we re really thinking long term. 

Riess: Five or ten thousand trees? 

Miller: Yes. If we were to plant five to ten thousand trees per year, it s not because there s a lack of 
trees, it might be that we have pockets where we have a need for more conifers. Earlier 
logging practices, and maybe fires, have left some open spots where hardwoods have come in. 
As a result they re taking over, and a hardwood had a branchier configuration, so it consumes 
too much canopy or sky. So we want to remove some of those and get the balance back to a 
more normal balance. Because of the history of logging in our area we have probably a 
twenty-five percent hardwood component, and a natural, normal one would be about twelve 
percent. So we d like to restore that normal balance. 

Riess: The climax forest in that area would be what? 
Miller: Redwoods. 
Riess: But you wouldn t want that? 

Miller: We d like to have the mix. I mean, climax forest, God almighty, I d like to live that long, but 
that might be five hundred years. 

Anyway, we have pockets there where we d like to have more trees, so we ll plant a mixture of 
Doug Firs and redwoods. The normal mix in our area is about 70 percent redwood, and 30 


percent Doug Fir. So when we replant, we replant more or less those same proportions. We re 
replanting areas where these hardwoods have been taking over. So we have these open spots. 
This is a plan for our timberland. 

Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan 

Riess: [reads] "Miller Tree Farm, Mendocino County, non-industrial timber management plan." And 
this name? 

Miller: Craig Blencowe. Happens to be our son-in-law. 
Riess: A registered professional forester. 

Miller: He was our daughter s junior high or high school sweetheart. They grew up together here in 

Riess: And he got into this all on his own? 

Miller: Yes. And we re one of his clients. He s an outstanding forester in California. 
Riess: I wondered whether you were doing the timber surveys and cruises and all that. 

Miller: No, we re managers, rather than dirt farmers, in that regard. The property is divided into 
different units, and this is what each unit I don t know, what s this say here? 

Riess: It says, "Total tree farm saw log volume, by species and management unit." 

Miller: Okay, well this is I believe what they have now on the property, for each unitlet me take a 
quick look. Then how many acres in that unit, and what s the redwood component, Doug Fir, 
and white woods. The white woods might be hemlock and white fir. We divided the property 
into these units. We have ten or fifteen units. 

Riess: The units have names. 

Miller: Yes, we had to come up with names. And they have a commonality to them, for the way the 
land lies, or the mixture of trees, and so forth. 

Riess: Wheats the need to have units? 

Miller: So that we can go in and harvest. We harvest every year. 
Riess: So you harvest by unit, rather than the whole. 

Miller: Every year we ll harvest. Like this year, 2002, we ll be harvesting up here in Unit Eight. This 
plan started as of 1990, 1 believe. We ve been over the whole property, we ve been at each of 
those units already. But what we do is we cut about two thirds of the growth, or one third of 
the growth in each of the units every ten years. 


Riess: Is that very conservative? 

Miller: Very conservative, very conservative. It depends, but more or less that. But if we d take you 
up there and you could drive through it you wouldn t realize that harvesting had taken place. 

Riess: Do you have other techniques for harvesting, for felling the trees? 

Miller: No, it s a chain saw is what does it. And then removing it, it depends on the lay of the land. If 
it s flat land, we ll use a tractor. We re beginning to use more and more 

Riess: Helicopters? 

Miller: No, not helicopters, but cable. You hook it from one hillside to another hillside and take it out. 

Riess: "Non-industrial" on this plan means what? 

Miller: We don t have a sawmill. 

A "Non-industrial General Management Plan"~let me skip ahead a little here. We had a new 
Forest Practice Act in California in 1974, and then it was up to the Board of Forestry to 
develop rules and regulations to implement it, which took place in 1975. At that point 
landowners like myself and Joan found that for the Board of Forestry, our interests weren t 
being represented. The environmentalists were very active at that point. They were fighting 
industry, saying that these rules had to be stringent in order to control industry, which I think 
was merited in many cases, but in other cases, not. The environmentalists were looking at 
forest practices which were no longer being practiced by the industry, so they were over 

But anyway, these regulations being formed to control our future, as to how we could log our 
private land; decisions were being made by compromises between industry and the 
environmentalists. Now industry, by our definition, is somebody who has a sawmill and they 
have crews of people who maintain their property and equipment and all. We as small 
landowners, or non-industrial timber landowners, we don t have any equipment, so we can t 
go out and take a tractor and touch this up here and clean that up there and so forth. So some 
of these regulations would not apply to small landowners as well as they would to big. 

We decided, by god, we had to be represented. So we got together, and created an association, 
called the Forest Landowners of California. I became the first president. That began a 
political aspect of my life I d never experienced before. I spent a lot of time in Sacramento 
with legislators, before them, giving testimony, and organizing other landowners. I was on the 
road a great deal for fifteen years. 

Riess: So that was from 1975 on? 

Miller: Seventy-five on, until, oh, 1992. So that s fifteen, seventeen years. 

Riess: Were the other members of this group up in the Humboldt region? 

Miller: Lots in the Humboldt region, and the Sierras, and all over the state. 


Riess: Did you find that you were kindred? You couldn t have all had the same attitude about it. 

Miller: No. Some of uswe found that many landowners, forest landowners, didn t know what they 
had out there. One of our big efforts was to get people to have their land cruised, to get hold of 
a forester and really understand what was out there in the woods. 

Riess: Were they mostly absentee? 

Miller: No, about half of us were absentee. Others lived on the land, and those who lived on the land 
often were cattlemen. Part of their land was timber land and they didn t know what was there. 
It was a case of making an effort to educate these people about what values they had there, and 
the values to the point they should begin to protect them, and join a group like ours to 
represent them. That s the smaller landowners, down to a couple hundred acres, to others that 
had thousands of acres. Some of them have big names like 

Riess: Witter, Ann Witter? 

Miller: I wish we had the Witters. We don t have them though. But we re talking about some of these 

Riess: Richard Wilson? 

Miller: Richard Wilson is kind of a come-by-lately, in many ways. His father had the land, but he 
didn t understand what was there, so he had to do a little self-education as well. But that s 
typical, that people inherit things. The Russ family is up there, I don t know if you know 
them. I think they owned at one time a major part of Humboldt County. I m just saying that 
there are some very large landownersto very small landowners. Anyhow, I worked very 
hard on that and learned a great deal about the realities of politics. 

Also, we quickly learned that the majority of the legislators are from Los Angeles. In fact, as I 
heard the story one time, at the beginning of every session they introduce the new legislators 
from the different part of the state, and they say, "Will the legislators from the Los Angeles 
area stand up?" Well, damn near the entire body stood up. Those are the people that have an 
urban imprint, who make the decisions about the natural resources in California. That s a core 
problem in California of everything from zoning to regulations on the use of water. When it 
comes to resources, it s too easy for an urban legislator to demagogue and use natural 
resources as a vehicle to secure his own nest, regardless of facts. So this remains an 
impossible problem. Impossible, because the people keep changing. 

Riess: Did you have lobbyists, or were you the lobbyist? 

Miller: I was the lobbyist for some time, if you want to call it that. Those of us that were available 

would do our doorbell-ringing. But it s not sufficient, we still don t have a proper Sacramento 

We found that the regulatory system in California, and really the political world, is such that 
politicians always are trying to put their stamp on something and win a better position with 
their constituents, which in urban areas are environmentalists. You re dealing with people 
who don t know what it s all about. We were exposed to more and more, in effect, new 
regulations, continuously, that it gets to the point that you can t afford to make these long-term 


plans. Why plant that tree if you don t know that you re going to be able to harvest it? Why 
make other contributions to the land, and other long-term planning, if it s ridiculous? We 
decided, another fellow and I decided we ve got to figure out some way to stop the time-clock 
on these regulations. 

Riess: Who was the other fellow? 

Miller: A fellow named Fred Ehlers. A very important man. He was our former executive director. I 
hired him for our FLC, Forest Landowners of California. He came up with the idea that we 
needed to figure a better structure somehow so we could make long-term plans. That was the 
"Non-industrial Timber Management Plan," where in essence once your land has met these 
criteria, and in effect you could have that kind of information available, a long-term plan, then 
the regulations in existence at that time would be the guiding criteria for the exercise of that 
plan. Not subsequent regulations, but regulations that were there at that time. Anyway, we 
got a bill passed and it became reality. 

Riess: So 1992 was the year of everyone s plan? 

Miller: No. If you want a plan of your property today, you have to abide by the regulations that exist 
as of now. 

Riess: That would force everyone to be very involved in Sacramento, if they care at all. 

Miller: Well, you ve got to be careful. These new regulationsevery time the legislature convenes 
they add new regulations to it. 

Riess: What if it got better, what if there were regulations that you liked better than 1992, could you 
have the whole thing re-surveyed and create a new management plan? 

Miller: I can t imagine that, it s never happened. 

A View of the Environmental Movement 

Riess: Environmentalists have been so much in the ascendency? 
Miller: Oh god, it s unbelievable. 
Riess: But they always sound like they are fighting a last-ditch battle. 

Miller: That s fund-raising. The hypocrisy in the environmental movements is just nauseating. The 
basis for the kind of things they wish to achieve, and the things that get the headlines, it s 
smoke and mirrors, so much of it. But it sure brings in new members. 

Riess: What are their motivations? 

Miller: I m not saying there aren t some true environmentalists, concerned people wanting to do a 
good thing for the environment. But there are others that couldn t care less about the facts. 


Riess: When you went up there, would you have called yourself an environmentalist? When you first 
got the land in 1967? 

Miller: I don t know. I guess so, yes. You see, I had had previous experience in the Park Service. We 
haven t talked about that. 

Riess: We haven t talked about that. We should. 

Miller: You ask if I call myself an environmentalist that word is so slippery. I came up with this 

program for the National Park Service and George Hartzog, the director of itand I m getting 
ahead of myself herehe didn t even know what the word meant. He d say, "What s this word 
environment mean?" So I m just giving you an idea. I might call myself an environmentalist, 
but the word is so slippery, and it s so overused, it s become meaningless in many ways. It s 
gotten to the point now, if you brush your teeth in the morning and the evening before you go 
to bed, you can say you re an environmentalist, you ve taken care of the resources. 

Riess: [laughs.] That s so funny! But the way you talk about the land, the trees, it s obvious that it s a 
nurturing thing. I d think environmentalists would agree. 

Miller: They buy that. They say, "Oh, we re not talking about you, Wayne, we re talking about other 
people." They re not really talking about other people, they re talking about being in control 
of the planning department of the county, or getting some more regulations in here. 

Riess: This is a tricky thing. You ve probably been able to use that impression of being right-minded. 

Miller: Well, yes. There was a state senator, out in Marin County, north coast, I can t remember his 
name right now. He came up to our property on an oversight committee. The former dean of 
the School of Forestry at Berkeley, Hank Vaux, he was chairman then, and he was host of this 
affair, brought these people up to our property to give an idea about what forestry was about 
and how it was practiced. There were about two or three stops and we were one of them. On 
this trip was this senator from Marin, and I had had an earlier run-in with him 

Riess: Was it Peter Behr? 

Miller: Yes, Peter Behr. There had been a discussion before this legislature about the use of an in- 
holding in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest, in-holding because the history of it went 
back to the Ministry of the Interior having a piece of that. And they d built some buildings in 
there, and the buildings were being used by different groups. Peter Behr wanted to remove 
ownership of the inholding and it s since been moved into the Jackson Demonstration State 
Forest Organization, so it would be available for logging, like other aspects of it are, controlled 
logging. Peter Behr was supporting this environmental group that wanted this thing removed 
from state control and made into a public campground and park as such, all preserved. Not 
only preserve this land, but also preserve lots of land around it as a buffer. 

I m making a long story out of a short point here. I testified that this had been used over the 
years by Boy Scouts and other groups, even some religious groups. And Peter Behr was 
testifying that this has been used by so many people, and the idea of changing its usage by 
putting it back in the state would jeopardize further usage by these groups and so forth. I m 
not telling it as well as I might. Anyway, I was at the microphone describing this before the 
Ways and Means committee, which is like feeding time at the zoo, it s terrible, people running 


around, it s a large committee and nobody pays attention to what s really going on. But I was 
testifying, doing my best, and all of a sudden I realize that this guy, Peter Behr, is pushing me. 
He grabs the mike and says, "That s not true!" He went ahead and told out and out lies. All I 
could do was sit down. 

I hadn t seen him again until here we are in this bus driving on to our property north of Fort 
Bragg. I reminded him of this. I said, "Why did you do this, Senator?" He said, "If I hadn t, 
you would have told them the truth." 

Riess: He said that? 

Miller: He did, he said it in just so many words. And he s an ardent environmentalist. So this to me is 
a description of one kind of environmentalist. "You would have told them the truth." 



Miller: This non-industrial timber management plan we call NTMP has been so successful that the 
Board of Forestry and the California Department of Forestry are looking for ways to expand 
this concept to cover more and more land in California, not just non-industrial, but other 
management plans, because they ve found that the cost of supervising these regulations has 
become unmanageable. It takes too many people to watch-dog these regulations. 

Also they re aware that these regulations are counter-productive as far as growing trees. 
Towns are suffering the loss of economy and the forests aren t being well-managed. In some 
areas it s increasing fire and what not, existing regulations. So they re doing their best to find 
ways to adapt this to larger acreage in California. It s proven to be a very successful package. 

Riess: Were most non-industrial timber lands in California surveyed as of 1 992? 

Miller: No. It s expensive to do this. It costs a lot of money. And somebody who s going to harvest 
their land, they re not going to be able to harvest it more than maybe once or twice in their 
lifetime, so why should they put out this kind of money before the fact, you see? It s damned 
if you do, damned if you don t. 

Riess: Does the organization help small growers? 

Miller: I wish we could, I wish we could, but we don t have the ability. We can help them as far as 
encouraging them to be involved, to find foresters for them and all. Actually, we ve gotten 
some help from the state to subsidize some of these costs that a landowner might have. Some 
of this money from the state can go toward relieving some of this pressure. 

A View of Wavn 

Riess: Now we re looking at "You Fine-Haired Sons of Bitches," an undated diatribe from the 
Anderson Valley Advertiser. Who was Pete Passof? 


Miller: A cooperative ag extension forester in Mendocino County. He s a very important man as far 
as helping those of us in forestry in California, an exceptionally talented guy, and he just hangs 
in there, and is helpful. 

Riess: In this article you are lumped together with Congressman [Douglas H.] Bosco. 

Miller: Bosco was assistant to one of our congressmen here, the federal congressman in California, 
and he took positions separate fromanybody who disagrees with this man automatically 
becomes a beast of sorts. 

Riess: [reading] "There they were, slick and confident: Congressman Bosco, Shep Tucker of 

Louisiana-Pacific, and Wayne Miller and Pete Passof, big timber s old faithful, standing like 
bookends at either end of the ten-person panel." 

Miller: Well, what happens is, both Pete and I were arguing that all forestry isn t bad forestry, and 
there s good ways of doing things. That automatically made us supporters of the negative 
industry world. 

Riess: "Local industry s ideological cop, Wayne Miller." 

Miller: These people come out of the woodwork, and no matter what you know, if all you did was 
manufacture American flags they d find some way to say that you re un-American for not 
doing it another way. 

Riess: [Miller is looking in papers] Now what are you looking for, Wayne? 

Miller: I m looking for something in here which is a letter from the county that was done in 1975 or 
something, or earlier, saying that the Miller Tree Farm and the Jackson Demonstration State 
Forest are the only examples of sustained-yield forestry in Mendocino County. We were the 
only ones who were practicing it. Which is kind of interesting. No one else was doing it. To 
give you an idea, we showed up there for a hearing before the Board of Supervisors, sitting as 
the Board of Equalization, I guess. They can wear different hats in order to represent the 
Board of Equalization; they can do it locally that way. 

In one year they changed our taxes on our property from something like three or four thousand 
dollars to seventy thousand dollars. That s because of the previous law which says that trees 
can be kept off the tax rolls until they are forty years of age, or of merchantable size. The 
assessors from Mendocino County came up one day and gave our property what we call a 
"windshield cruise," where you sit in an automobile and drive through it, and he determined 
that our property was all mature timber, forty years of age and older. So now it was to be 
taxed at its merchantable value, whether we cut it or not. 

Well, you see, in effect, historically that s what s created a lot of these clear-cuts, because 
people can t afford to leave the trees standing there and pay taxes on them when you don t 
have any income. So you clear-cut your property to reduce it, till seventy percent of it is 
below forty years of age. 

I took this argument to the Board of Supervisors, and that was to be about a fifteen or twenty 
minute hearing, and my god, we spent something like four or five hours. They were intrigued. 
Here this Mendocino County Board of Supervisors had never had it explained to them how a 


forest functions, how it operates. As a result, they put us back in that three thousand dollar tax 
level, and declared us to be a sustained-yield forest, the first time it had been done in 
Mendocino County. So there ve been a few fun things happen in our exercise of pursuing this 
sort of thing. 

Riess: What is all this appended to your timber survey? 
Miller: It s the history of the property, [looking for papers] 

These were kind of ground-breaking or precedent-setting things that happened here, with my 
getting first involved in timber, and then creating the organization and then this, this is the 
high point of my forestry career here, this NTMP. 

Here is what I was looking for. 

Riess: So this is the result of your hearing? [reads] "In 1 973, the Millers requested an exemption from 
the Ad Valorem Tax, in effect under Article Thirteen, Section Twelve and Three Quarters of 
the Constitution." Then it quotes, "As regards the prudent operator concept, we, i.e. the 
county, currently do not have any timber owners or operators working toward sustained yield 
other than Mr. Miller, who are recognizable, with the exception of Jackson State Forest. Mr. 
Miller has decided at this time to cut over a long period of time with the resultant continued 
appreciation of his investment by both five percent to six percent growth and the annually 
increasing stumpage values. I believe his return under sustained yield will be considerably 
greater than under liquidation type operation, as will the county s." 

Miller: You see, this kind of a plan makes money for you. 

Riess: A while back you told me that this phasing out of photography, phasing in of land stewardship, 
you have seen as a very fortunate way to provide for your family. 

Miller: Right. It s worked out fabulously well. In hindsight, it s worked fine. To do it in foresight, I 
think would be very difficult. 

Riess: Did you go into it looking to make money? 

Miller: No, we weren t very conscious of that, we did it very naively. We assumed that there would 
be some value there, but we didn t really start jotting on the backs of envelopes about what we 
could expect in the way of income. Not to my recollection did we ever do that. But we 
certainly did after we first made our first harvest in 1 972, 1 think it was. We began to realize, 
my god, this is something here. We can do this every year. So long as you re not greedy. You 
have to treat it with respect and pamper it and it ll smile back for you. 

Riess: And you ve gotten your children involved in it? 

Miller: Yes. We have a family partnership. Our children all have a proportionate share in everything 
we own. We have all our assets in this one partnership. 

Riess: They have the same values about it? 


Miller: To a degree, yes. I say to a degree because they re not as deeply involved in it as Joan and I 
are. They re aware of the values, and want to continue it. How long that ll last, I don t know. 
It s a dream that will last only as long as the children want it. Eventually if they don t want it, 
why then it s up to them to change it. 

Special Assistant to the Director of the National Park Service. NEED 

Riess: In 1967 you become Special Assistant to the Director of the Park Service? 

Miller: It s a funny story. I got a call from Yoichi Okamoto, who was LBJ s White House 

photographer. Oke is a very fine photographer, and a good friend. He gave me a telephone 
call one day and said, "I just had a conversation with Stewart Udall," who was Secretary of the 
Interior. He said, "He s going to call you. I told him you re probably busy with an assignment 
right now and probably wouldn t be available for a week or ten days. But expect a telephone 
call from him. If you decide to come to Washington, DC to talk with him further, be sure to 
ask him who s going to pay for the air ticket." [laughs] I learned later that this conversation 
that Oke had with him was under very special conditionsthey were standing at adjacent 

By gosh, the next morning the telephone rings and Stewart Udall s on the telephone. He said 
he wanted to talk to me about changing the visual image of the National Park Service and 
wanted me to come to Washington to talk about it. I made arrangements and went to 
Washington, DC, and I didn t know what the devil to talk to him about, something like this. In 
fact, on the telephone I said, "I think you d be crazy to change the visual image of the Park 
Service, you ve got Ansel Adams there for Christ s sake! Don t rock the boat." At any rate, I 
came to his office and the fire was burning- 

Riess: Was it that Ansel Adams had made it look too formidable and grand and they wanted the Park 

Service to look- 
Miller: It was just a politician wanting to put his stamp on things. I think. 

So the fire was burning, and there were a couple of chairs there, and the Director of the 
National Park Service was there and his assistant was there. The four of us were sitting there 
in front of the fire and I repeated my statement. I said, "Hang onto this thing." But on the way 
in on the plane I had been thinking, "I ve got to have something here to throw at them." I d 
done a story for Maclean s magazine, a Canadian magazine, about summer camp for fifth and 
sixth grade children here in Orinda, which at that time, early 1950s, was kind of an innovative 
idea. Kids spent a week in the woods together with some teachers and learned some general 
feelings about the woods and natural balances. 

So I recalled that story I d done, which was quite successful, as a story. I said, "Instead of 
thinking about me as a photographer coming and doing some things, why don t you think 
about a program which could work to bring national park values to urban children? That s a 
winner right there." I talked about how the values in the natural world depend upon balances, 
and there s no reason why it couldn t be replicated in cities where gangs-not everybody can be 


a chief, you have to have other balances within a gang in order to make it successful. You 
know, a little grass growing between the sidewalk and buildings. 

Anyway, I spun this thing off. I got done and Udall said, "Great, I want you to do it." You 
know, that s pretty heavy stuff. I said,"Well, this conversation s been fun, but give me a 
couple of weeks." I talked about how we could use radio, television, the schools and this sort 
of thing. I said, "Give me a couple of weeks and I ll go to New York and I ll get back to you." 
He said, "Fine." We set a date. I went to New York and talked to people. I talked to Magnum 
people who know stories and communications. I talked to some publishers. 

Riess: The idea was that it would be put across through photography? 

Miller: No. This has nothing to do with photography, this is education. I wanted to know about 

So I came back to Washington and laid it out and said, "I think it s possible." They said, 
"Okay, do it." I turned to the director of the National Park Service, George HartzogI became 
Special Assistant to the Director of the National Park Service for Environmental Affairs, I 
added that to it. That s when he said, "What the hell s environmental affairs Wayne? " 

I said, "George, this is going to be a word that you re going to be just so sick of hearing in the 
next few years, you re going to want to vomit." And this was before Earth Day, this was 
before any of those things, you see. This is before the National Environmental Policy Act had 
been passed. 

Anyway, I spent this three years, and I pulled together a group of Park Service personnel to 
work on this, and a fellow also from Berkeley at the time, Mario Menesini, who was an 
educator. I got his name from the fellow who ran our Orinda summer camp program. I got 
hold of Mario, put him under contract, and he set up an office here to design this program. He 
came up with some ideas, concepts, and we came up with National Environmental Education 
Development, the NEED Program. That was Mario s idea, that NEED acronym. This was a 
kindergarten through twelve program. We had it published by Silver, Burdett, and it was used 
in several states, Pennsylvania being one, I forget who else. 

Riess: Silver, Burdett? 

Miller: Silver, Burdett. I think it was with Time-Life backing. 
Riess: So you created a model? They could take the package and read it and do it? 

Miller: This was going to have teacher training programs. Boy oh boy, what a~I ve got a whole 

bunch of stuff here to show you. Teacher training, and then we also needed areas to apply this 
thing in the city. So we needed national environmental study areas. We got that passed or 
approved. We could come in and we could condemn~oh shoot, it makes my skin crawl at this 
point in time we could go in and condemn some land and make an environmental study area, 
right in the center of the city. Maybe it d be part of a lot underneath a freeway or a clover-leaf, 
or it could be something. Or a section of Central Park we could condemn, [laughs] This was 
going to be used as a continuous reference point for studying patterns and relationships and 


Riess: Was everyone reporting to you? 
Miller: Just at the development stage. I left when it came to the implementation. 

A few years ago I was up in Redwood National Park and learned that they re practicing it there 
in that park. Also I learned that they made this program part of the indoctrination program for 
new employees coming into the park. 

How much of that stuck, I don t know. I do remember at Yosemite one time I was there and 
my god, they had all kinds of materials there from this program for people to use, for visitors 
as well as teachers and whatnot. That was really exciting to have done that. So I had this 
earlier experience, and then I got involved with this thing here. I had a hell of a lot of fun. 

Riess: You liked working with people, getting on the phone, making things come together? 

Miller: I guess so. Must have. But it was certainly a shift of gears from photography. A lone guy 
flying along. So I ve had a series of experiences whichit s been like a second lifetime. 

Riess: Then you were a founding member of the Yosemite Institute? 

Miller: Yes. That was a failure. The Yosemite Institute existed, and it was a little rinky-dink summer 
camp for kids there in Yosemite. I was asked to be involved in it by the same people there. I 
had the idea that we d use Yosemite kind of like an Aspen [Institute], as a place to bring good 
thinking together, and from there, let these spores go out and find roots someplace. If we 
wanted to deal with environmental education, which is the way it started, I said, "Okay, we ll 
do that, but let s make this a showcase of how it should be done. Not bring more kids to the 
park, god forbid, but let s ship the concepts out so that it could be done in Podunk." We put 
this together. I got some money from Hartzog. Our relationship was such that I said, "George, 
I need five thousand dollars," and he said, "Okay." I had a marvelous relationship with him. 

When I told him I wanted to leave and go to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, he said, 
"Why don t you stay? We can just take over this town, just stick around, we can really do it." 
Because I d developed some other programs there while I was in the Park Service which 
showed how I could get other agencies, like the Indian Affairs, and Civil Service, National 
Endowment for the Arts, I could get them all involved. With their authorities and budgets, we 
could put together a fantastic snowman, you know, we could just do all kind of great things. I 
had a lot of success with our initial efforts there, and that s what he was referring to. 

I started to say something else here, and then interrupted myself. 
Riess: About the Yosemite Institute. 

Miller: The Yosemite Institute. So we got this money, we put together a board of directors and all. I 
was asked to be president. I said, "No, I ve done my thing here, get somebody else." So we 
got another fellow to come in and be president. Well it slipped right away from me, and it 
developed into nothing. It s still nothing but a summer camp for kids. 



Miller: When I decided to leave the Park Service we d been working with Health Education and 

Welfare, HEW, which at that point included the Department of Education. We d been working 
with them to implement some of the concepts of the Park Service educational programs. So 
when I left the Park Service the Department of Education wanted to continue this thing on a 
broader level. They worked with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and they were there 
to help fund it, and they asked me to stay on. 

I became executive director of this Public Broadcasting Environment Center which was really 
just a nine-month contract to explore possibilities of making a bigger thing out of this basic 
Park Service concept. It would include television and radio, and tying it in with schools and 
feedback, with a weekly or every two week national program and then weekly local 
programs it would feed back and forth. I had a marvelous time with that, but it got too big. I 
wasn t a good administrator, and the whole thing collapsed, because we just couldn t see a way 
to make it work. 

Riess: Were you doing photographic jobs at all during this time? 

Miller: No, nothing in photography. During that period with the Park Service and Public 
Broadcasting I didn t do any photographic work. That was four years out. 

And I think that finishes the story. At least for today. 




Tape Guide Wayne F. Miller 

[Interview 1 : August 2, 2001] 

Tape 1, Side A 1 

Tape 1, Side B 6 

Tape 2, Side A 14 

Tape 2, Side B 20 

[Interview 2: August 8, 2001] 

Tape 3, Side A 27 

Tape 3, Side B 33 

Tape 4, Side A 39 

Tape 4, Side B 45 

[Interviews: August 24, 200 1 ] 

TapeS, Side A 51 

Tape 5, Side B 57 

Tape 6, Side A 64 

Tape 6, Side B 69 

Tape 13, Side A(inserted material) 74 

End of inserted material 75 

[Interview 4: August 29, 2001] 

Tape 7, Side A 79 

Tape 7, Side B 85 

Tape 8, Side A 90 

Tape 8, Side B 96 

[Interview 5, October 10, 2001] 

Tape 9, Side A 103 

Tape 12, Side B(inserted material) 107 

End of inserted material 113 

Tape 9, Side B 113 

[Interview 6: October 24, 2001] 

Tape 10, Side A 121 

Tape 10, Side B 127 

Tape 11, Side A 131 

Tape 11, Side B 137 

[Interview 7: December 17, 2001] 

Tape 12, Side A 143 

Tape 13, Side B 145 

Tape 14, Side A 152 

Tape 14, Side B 157 



Appendix A 

Biographical Information, current to 2001. 165 

Appendix B 

1995 Summary of Wayne F. Miller s body of work. 167 

Appendix C 

Newspaper release announcing Meritorius Service Award to Wayne F. Miller from the 
National Park Service. 169 

Appendix D 

Plans for work, written in 1946. "The Way of Life of the Northern Negro in the United States." 

Notes to self in March and November 1946. 

Notes on a visit to Provident Hospital emergency room written in November 1946. 

Notes from June 1947 work. 171 

Appendix E 

Unedited notes written in 2002 for possible inclusion in oral history. 1 89 



Wayne F. Miller 


1918 Born September 19, Chicago, IL 

1936-40 University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 

BS, Business Administration 

1940-41 Art Center School, Los Angeles. 

1942 Married Joan Baker. Four children: Jeanette, 1945; David, 1946; 

Dana, 1948; Peter, 1951. 

1942-46 US Navy, Photographer, Lt. USNR 

Member of Steichen USN Combat Photo Unit. 
Citation, USN Institute. 

1946-48 Guggenheim Fellow. Two concurrent Fellowships to photograph 

"The Way of life of The Northern Negro." 

1946-49 Freelance magazine photographer, Chicago. 


1948-49 Instructor in Photography, Institute of Design, Chicago. 

1949-53 LIFE Magazine, contract photographer, San Francisco. 

1953-55 "Family of Man" Exhibition and book. 

Assistant to Edward Steichen, Museum of Modern Art 
New York City. 

1955 Chairman, American Society of Magazine Photographers. 

Memorial Award: American Society of Magazine Photographers. 

Published "A BABY S FIRST YEAR" with Drs. Ben. Spock, 
Reinhart, Duell, Sloan and Pearce. 

1958 Elected Member, Magnum Photos, Inc. an international photographic 


Published "THE WORLD IS YOUNG" Simon and Schuster, NYC. 
Established a redwood forest tree farm, California. 


1962-66 President, Magnum Photos Inc., 

1967-70 Spec. Ass t to the Director, National Park Service, Washington, DC. 

Receives Department of Interior "Award for Meritorious 
Service" for developing environmental education programs. 

1971 Corporation for Public Broadcasting: 

Exec. Director, Public Broadcasting Environment Center, Washington 

1972 Yosemite Institute, Founding Board Member. 

1975 Joan and Wayne Miller named "California Tree Farmers of the Year." 

1975 Founding President, Forest Landowners of California, 

1985 Elected a Member, Society of American Foresters. 

1987-89 President of the Redwood Region Conservation Council 

1996 ASMP Phtojournalism Award 

1999 Japanese edition of World 7s Young published by Fukuinkan Shoten 

2000 Chicago s South Side, published by University of California Press. 
With essay by Gordon Parks 

Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism, University of 
Missouri, September 22, 2000. 

Rev: 5-4-2001 





Wayne Miller s body of work can be broken down Into 5 fairly large categories, based on subject matter: 
WWII; Guggenheim grants used to document life of black Americans in greater Chicago area; photographs of 
children published in 2 books (Baby s First Year & The World Is Young); stories done on assignment for 
various clients; personal work. In all 5 categories there is a common theme of the relatedness of all people: 
within chosen communities, within the family unit, amongst children, and the teaching, encouragement & 
elevation of relatedness thru the educational system & cultural activities (the arts). 

The WWII photographs were taken whileiWFM was a member of special Naval Photographic Unit, sunder 
command oi idward Steichen, created taldocument Naval war activities WF/vVtook photos of i fjj ;j,i : 
WAVE & u|A/C paratroopers training ir|US jf, j |i| 

Southern Eu|d^? (including story on strejsi kids of Naples) 
aircraft carri$j||ife and action in Pacific Ocean regions 

1 :\i ^U ? JSs l 





torpedo boat? & gunboats 

black American soldiers in Guam .l! 

the Philippines & Hawaii 

Yokohama & Hiroshima weeks after the atomic bombing 

reaction to & cortege following FDR s death. 

In this work the emphasis is on the lives of ordinary soldiers/sailors & civilians: the emotional & mortal toll 

taken by war; soldiers/sailors efforts, through activitiy & human interaction, to forget war; the camaraderie of 

soldiers; the cruelty of war; humanity in the face of inhumanity. 

Following WWII WFM received 2 consecutive GUGGENHEIM grants with which he documented the life of 

BLACK AMERICA in the Chicago, IL area in the late 1940 s. He also worked on assignment for Ebony 

magazine which overlapped into the Guggenheim work. The photos focus on the life of blacks from all walks 

of life & include stories on: 

interracial marriages 

emergency rooms/maternity clinic 

black owned/run businesses 

night life (including female impersonators, bars & social clubs/nightclubs, marijuana party) 

migrant workers in California. 

This work emphasizes people living ordinary, dignified & degraded lives in face of poverty & segregation. 


The first of his 2 BOOK" PROJECTS, Baby s 1st Year, started out as a 1948 Ladies Home Journal magazine 

assignment to document the first year of life of his daughter Dana. The book, published worldwide, came out 

in 1955. The photographs follow Dana from birth through her 1st birthday & include coverage of her: 

delivery room birth 

feeding, sleeping, & playing 

illness & trips to doctor 

interaction with brother, sister, mom & dad 

exploration of senses 

progress from crawling to assisted 1st steps 

1st birthday party. 

The emphasis of these pictures is on the joy & difficulty of infancy, childhood, parenthood & the cohesion of 

the family. 



The second BOOK PROJECTS, The World is Young , is something of a continuation of the first. WFM 
enlarged his photo documentation of his daughter to include all four of his children, and later on the children 
in his community .-Photos taken of WFM children, their friends and neighbors, and other children and 
teens in (mostly) Northern California in the 1950 s through the 1960 s, a small selection of which 
were compiled in The World Is Young book. WFM files contain extensive coverage of American 
youth, including: all phases of life and growth of all 4 Miller children from birth (late 1940 s 
through early 1950 s) through young adulthood (1970 s) - birthdays and holiday celebrations, 
family life, emotional life, friends, hobbies (scouts, dancing, fishing & hunting, etc.), camping, 
school, etc;-;, general school life of cither children and teens, including lots of outdoor activity and 
group events (sports, dances, partiesi) with lots of interaction betWeen boys and girls; scnipol life, 

job training-, and juvenile delinquencvof urban youths; alsojphoji; - J * : ! -~ i ~- J 

design of TJfe World Is Young book.$ \\ \ fj- 

This work emphasizes individuality & : each child s place inside; or 

s documenting planning fcnd 

butside, group 

I !i 

WFM was a working photojournalist from the late 1940 s through the mid 1970 s (with periods in 
the early fifties and late sixties early seventies when he doing other work). A large portion of his 
work was done on ASSIGNMENT for publication in magazines as photo stories, and to a lesser 
extent for corporations for annual reports, and for advertising agencies for use as advertisements. 
Some of the more notable stories he photographed are: Effingham fire; Gandy dancers; Richland 
Trailer park; farm wife; Mexican Priest; Nixon Homecoming; Eisenhower overseas trips; Korean War 
Bride; 1st Marine Division homecoming; Nobel Laureates; Dr. Spock; The Alamo (movie). 
In looking at the assignments he chose general categories of assignments can be determined. They 
include- community, family, women, religion, education, art/culture, business/industry, the 
elements, politics, Korean & Vietnam wars, law & order, science/scientists, medicine/Drs., 
personalities, entertainment. 

most stories emphasize people as individuals in particular circumstances rather than viewing them 
as elements of an event, a political movement, a natural disaster or an industrial process and thus 
depriving them of some of their humanity. 

WFM has photographs which do not fall into any of the above categories. This PERSONAL work 
includes photos of family, friends, professional associates, most especially of Edward Steichen, 
with many photos taken during their work & social life together during the creation of the Family of 
Man exhibition. There are also quite a few photographs of the Northern CA redwood forest his 
family owns & manages - photos documenting logging, reforestation & landscape changes over 

Ellen Hayes 
November 1995 
Orinda, CA 

-*V)Tn-" i. ~." " 
, v, - 



Western Region 


Wayne F. Miller, an internationally. known photographer and environmentalist, 
has received a Meritorious Service Award from the National Park Service for his 
work in developing the Service s National Environmental Education Program now 
available to school systems nationwide. 

Miller, of Orinda, Calif. , was a special assistant to the director from 1967 
to 1971 and now serves as a consultant to the Park Service . 

The citation, presented to Miller by NPS Director George B. Hartzog, Jr., 
states that he "has been responsible for originating several of the most farsighted 
and enduring programs ever begun in the Park Service. 

"He originated, organized and supplied the initial thrust for the National 
Environmental Education Development program (NEED), the National Environmental 
Study Area program (NESA) and the National Environmental Education Landmark 
program (NEEL) . " 

A major innovation in the programs was "finding environmental values in 
everything and relating these values to every individual being, " the citation said. 

"His was the voice that went beyond the traditional emphasis on outdoors 
and science as the vehicles for environmental education; He consistently and 
effectively stressed the theme that man s culture and civilization also exemplifies 
the environmental processes at work in the world," it said. 

The three programs are still in the implementation stage but are in effect 
in many of the 285 areas in the National Park System. The materials already 
developed have been adopted for use by school districts across the nation. 

Miller began a photographic career as an undergraduate at the University 
of Illinois and as a Navy photographer in World War II. He -has created many photo 
essays for major national and foreign magazines over a 20 year period including 
Life, Look, National Geographic and Paris Match. 


From 1953 to 1955 Miller was Assistant Director, Department of Photography 
at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, where he assisted Edward Steichen 
in the creation of the award winning exhibition and book "Family of Man." 







I wish to photograph the way of life of the northern negro in the 
United States, ^his includes a lot/and I don t "TPWirt presume for a moment 


that I am the only person in the country that oan dofcit. I do not believe 

as .it should be done. Whether or not a colored man 
that pmy white man oan do < +.^ / x%Ttt*yr^in?1ltffl<r !;3^rK* It takes a sympathy of 


do it 


i i^r --- " *^ii ?^^^^ *r 

people thatfare not having the best of things, Yn their minds/ir in othj 

V -- -- -- ~~~ 

""omething must be done to explain the negro to the white and to himself. 

I belie ve that it ia due to ignorance of existing conditions that so little 

is understandable to the average white in this country. The negro as & knowsT- 

.XHSX 1 household help 

him is in the person of jf8& Jarn -fcrrpj/rf-arirjs-tCTiiniftn, or shoeshine boy. 



Btscxe s c aptfl 

and those. of our children 
/ If we could know him as he is and then allow ggrniiif r our JIB opinions/to be 


then perhaps there would he less 

or perhaps no "colored problem". Perhaps ky the negro is wrong, perhaps the 
white is wrong, and then jjjgjtoHw^ both may be guiljry. However, first of all 
let us look into their lives and see Just how thay live and what they experience 
and how they exist in this world. 



V./|f . 

ix Starting sometime in February 1946 in the Chicago area 

and then letting the subjett material lead me to whatever other northern cities 
it may is my present plan, ^he best iob might wall bj? done with one family in 

) /Xa "r4fr ~i. ilu^Ci&r- ~af**jfi .u . , ...^tAL-aj&m. * . .1 _SL f 

just one city 

phttograph their mcxixtescxiE reactions 


to iiktixxmsai basic problems such as eating/sleeping, sorrow and happiness, 

pushing and being pushed, hopes and frustrations," ) then v 

"" fl 

u J 

.173 e , ...-,. 

-* . 

- 4 Mar 46 


Started .work today. Drove around the colored belt and attempted to 
see just what kind of homes and conditions existed. Overcast rainy. 
weather did not contribute much. 47th and South Parkway is the State 
and Madie.pri .of Black Metropolis. 47th should provide lots of material. 
After looting at the shops as well as homes, it appears to me that 
the best time to do the majority of shooting on these spots will be in . 
the summertime. Then people will be outside and congrgating more than 
now. The light will also be better. 

At 11: 30am. calledthe Defender and located Enoch P. waters , one. of 
their top correspondents. Enoch introduced me to all members of the 
staff and showed me the Defender plant, The Defender jpublished three 
other newspapers as well as a national edition of theDef ender. All 
printed on .tli err Chicago presses. Met Ben Burns, Executive Ml to* 1 ef 
Ebony. He wants me to do some things for the magazine. Mentioned that 
they have had Karger do some jobs for $100 per. Their top salary. 
On Wednesday I have made a tentative date to meet him in his Ebony office 
Plan to take samples of my work arid a set of the Guam negro story with 

While at the Defender I met their photographer, Scott Tyler. Spent 
two. years at the Univ. of Minn. Unmarried. Born in Chicago and left 
here at the age of three for Minneapolis. A very nice fellow and .1 hope 
to see more of him. He is eager and undoubtedly capable. 22 yrs old. 
Scoit will cal^L me tomorrow about an interracial dinner 5 Mar at 
Ricardo s Restaurant on Rush s.t. xhink it worth while going as it may 
provide future contacts. 

Had lunch with Enoch and SCott at the Palms on 47th^ st. Reasonable food 
at slightly higher than average prices. A typical luncheon spot. 

Returned home and got ready for enlarging after dinner. 

Used the lab. for the first time and all in all it is very satisfactory. 
The enlarger is not as it should be but we are happy to have it until 
an Omega shows up. Did up about 17 of the Dog Show Negatives out of a 
total of 50. The gloss dryer is inferior and hope that with a bath we 
can get a better axiiBitEZ gloss. Not getting the quality prints that I 
should. Quit work at 4: 30a.m. 5 Mar 46. 


5 Mar 46 

Slept late this morning, finished drying some glossies. 
Confirmed the Ricar,do Restaurant date with Scott. Picked him up at 
the Defender at 5 p.m. and soon after arrived at Ric s. 

I had no idea as to what kinfl of a dinner I was getting into except that 
there would be some Negroes there. It was a small dinner in one of the 
private dining rooms for Hilda Simms, star- of Anna Lucusta. Abofct 12 
Negroes which were directly connected with the show. (Members of the 
cast and etc. ). There were about five of us whites. One girl:, wagi-a 
member^ of The laayors Committee on Race Relations and the other was 
from the gKHEiCivil Liberties Council. The men were Jewish and inter 
ested in the financial aspects of the play. The owner of ttoe glay, 
Mr. Grij>J)10i *? ) , was a very congenial person and offered to help me with 
backstage shots of the play. Call him at his room in the Bismark. 

The dinner was most disorganized and just what you raight expect of a 
group of actors attempting to get in a flestive dinner before curtain 
time. It ended up with everyone leaving as soon as they had had taieir 
main course and then running to the thealce. We were among the last to 
leave and then Scott, Mrs. Gleischer, .of the Committe on Race Relations, 
went to the Saroy for the Boxing matches. It was most crowded here and 
the pictures I maSe kKXK were an experiment more than anythin-g else. 
Had no trouble other than persons wanting tfapir pictures made, 
A Negro policeman did come and tell me that th manager wanted to see me. 
Met a white man whose name I can t remember and told him a cock and bull 
story about my doing work for Ebony. 

Dropped Mrs. Gleischer ,,at the "L" and Scott and I had a milk shake. 
On the way to find an open drug store he talked about the Negro society. 
There are three groups. One based on color. Only the very lightest of 
negroes belong. Scott, chocalate colored himself, is ineligible. 
The second group is made up of that group who base their position on the 
position of money regardless of its origin. The third group is one that 
take pride in their family background. Scott mentioned that this is by 
far the more genuine group and in the next breath mentioned that he had 
no trouble getting settled here when he moved to Chicago from Minneapolis 
believe Scott to be an gxceptional person, however, and am only Kidding 
him in the above sentence.- He hopps to get a Rosenwald Fund grant which 
will enable him to attend Art Center in Los Angeles and later Clarence 
" hites school in New YOrk. i-ie ha.s askeS me to check the Hegro acceptance 
H at Art Center. 

Yesterday on mentioning Embree, Enoch swot claims; that he is a charlatan. 
He if a pacifier rather than a curer. "Things will work out in timef. 
Perhaps this is impetuous youth bucking a. more sound reasoning. Perhaps 
not. Enoch also mentioned that he would like to have us come over to hit 
home sbme evening soon befoie he leaves for his three month tour of 
cities Hi for the Defender to spend the evening with his wife and himseli 
Will be interesting to see if he is sincere about this tentative appoint 


6 Mar 46 

Had my appointment with Ben Burns of Ebony this morning. He is very 
anxioud for me to dp some work for them. He said that Ebony is most 
interested in doing things around outstanding personalities rather 
than fact as fact is. Scott saye that he is a white Jew. The stories 
he ^mentioned to me are those of Percy Julian a chemist who kas done 
outstanding things with the Soy Bean and incidentally claims that Carver 
is a fraud foisted off on the public. He developed a male and female 
sex hormone and at the present time is engaged in a law suit of it. 
fcjiathxixKiExxxiKx This man is head of the Glidden Laboratories. 
Another story is that of an inventor named Frazer living in, Elkharjit 
Ind. The third is a story about the largest coop housing unit in the 
country for Negroes. Is located at 130th street^ and called Altgeld 
Gardens. In mentioning the Ind. story I asked Bunns if it meant 
transportation casts as well as ik* $100 and he said yes. 

8 Mar 46 

Talked to Costeri this noon after walking up and down 47th s.t. 
Had lunch on Wacker and talked about his trip to new } ork and also 
Hugh Moffett of Life in Chicago wanting to meet me. After lunch I 
went over to 230 No. Mich to Life s office and met Hugh Moffett. 
Showed him myv samples and he said that he would get in touch with 
me. Whether he means it or not remains to be seen. 

9 Mar 46 

Looked over the Michigan ave. story for Sosmo. Talked to a cop 
and it is his opinion tteat Monday afternoons and Saturday aft. are 
the best. Think that from about 10a.m. on may do the job/. 


11 March 46 

This morning I finished up the drying and numbering of the dog Show 
prints and then sent them off with a letter to Hannibal* In my letter 
I mentioned that I would send him some layout ideas. 

Called Scott and met him about 2; 30pm at the Defender. We talked for 
a long time about the makeup of the Belt and he has some concrete 
ideas about definite families that Ii can photograph. He is a most 
unusual Negro in that he has a firm understanding that in order for 
me to dp the work I have in mind I must have KEEXEX access not only to 
the good side but to the bad. He is willing to find what I want in 
the way of subject matter and to introduce me to whatever level I 
wish. All levels of families are available through his present connect 
ions, rie mentioned other subjects: Cobbs Church, a holy roller type 
of personality with a fabulous church arrangement^ parkway Dancehall, 
on Sundays it is operied for 15 yrs and up for jitterbugging^ beaneries 
and light lunch spots should provide good shots; also he mentioned that 
I should dress as my subjects to allay their self consciousness. 
It seems that Negroes are lees scept^-ffial and more trusting of whites 
than they are of thetr fellow Negroes. However an introduction by a 
Negro is essential. 

Scott is very anxious to go someplace 1 in photography. Whether he will 
or not, I think, is determinent upon his will to work hard. Kxkx go 
He is a oustx ijost happy-go-lucky fellow that he may be held back for 
this reason. 

Made an appointment to,,nieet him tomorrojr and at that time he will 
introduce me to a family in his building. 

Also mentioned that Keefe of Anna Lucusfca will buy all of the pictures 
I make backstage of this playX* 


12 Mar 46 

Saw Scott again today and after lunch with he and hie cousin Chess, 
Manager of the Kroger store at &u:i!Bix. 55th, at the Benyenuto, we 
returned to the Defender. We talked more about the family arrange 
ments and then after taking a Defender shot at the l?ark police Station 
we dropped by the Bazel home. Met the folks .and they seemed most 
cooperative. The wife is interested in local politics and welfare. 
The husband is connected with trains -in some manner, porter?. 
The standing arrangement is for me to show up and start shooting at 
my convenience. 

Asked Scott out for dinner fhursday nite. 

Heard from him that the Rosenwald Fund would in all probability pro 
vide ample funds for my present work. Applications must be in by 
1 Jan in order to be acted upon for the May appointments.. . . 
Tried to get intouch with Jim Keefe of Anna Lucusta. He is Publicity 

Received a wire from Moe asking for prints for fudging. Will send them 
off tomorrow morning. 

Wrote a note^ to Moe telling him prints are on their way. 
Wrote Hugh Mulvena asking him to get ray prints over to Moe together 
with the prints I was sending him. 

Wrote Maloney asking him to doublechech on Mulvena. 

Developed 7 rolls tonight. Found several flaws in my present system 
of setup. Need a tanft with water jackefl to hold about five reels 
for developing and the same for hypo. Also a tank for washing. 
See the drawings I made for them. Once saw an adfi in the phone bk 
saying that photo equipment will be made on. order, With these tank s 
the work can be cut dowrf to nothing. 

13 Mar 46 

Packed up the prints and mailed them at a cost of $6.97 ( airmail, 6. 72; 

insurance .25) to Mulvena. Moe should receive them in ample time. 

Received a letter from him today saying that he had attempted to 

r*ach ms at hannibals. Funny thing about that teecause we had given 

him our new address by letter. 

Ben Burns of Ebony called this afternoon and said that the copy on the 

Altgeld story is ready KR&X for rae to pick up. Saw him later and 

when he gave me the copy he said that he would like to look at the 

contacts and make his. selection from them. W have put @ff the 

Elkhardt inventor story until I get some tires. Met the writer,, named 


Tried to get Maloney but he proved his elusive self. And on the phone. 

Will try again tomorrow. 

CalT from Hugh Moffett of Life. Wants me to go^ to St. Louis this 

Thursday nite to make shots at thfc St. L. Post Dispatch and of the 

cardinal Glennon funereal on Friday. will make complete arrangements 

tomorrow. Only $40 per day and expensedsinstead of :}p50. 

Should be back here by Saturday nite. 

Developed two rolls tonight. 


2 loveznber 46 

About ten days ago, I followed up an old recommeridation that Horace Cayton 
had made to me in regards to seeing Mr. Prater Lane of the Urban League. 
I showed him the Roosevelt Bet of pictures and he was really quite 
impressed. He is a big fellow .nd has a very open manner about him. He 
told me about his childhood - Mississippi I believe. He had been raised 
with the feeling that the white man could get. away with anything and that 
the legro was always in the wrong . The only way to get ahead was hard 
study. Then, too, school was an escape from the crowded home conditions. 
He is very much concerned with the part that living conditions play in 
the development of the individual. 

He talked about juvenile delinquency and mentioned Ben Crockett, Juvenile 
Officer at the 48th St* station. He gave me a note to this man saying that 
he had been instrumental in obtaining him his position. Lane told 
me of the other activities ef the League which consisted of Job placement, 
helping veterans and their problems, housing, better social conditions and 
the usual social activities. He introduced me to a very nice cooperative 
chap in charge of job placement, This chap suggested I come in any time 
I could and listen to the peeple interviews. I listened to one interview 
of man 62 years old and made a coupfe pictures. I think it w> uld be worth 
while to spend some more ti on this because there is a condition of 
honesty and openness of expression in a job like that which would be 
bery interesting. Mr. Lane also mentioned that an opprortunity to obtain 
an entrance into the homes of people might be coordinated with a need the 
Urban League had which is that of helping to obtain better housing condi 
tions for those now,living in slum quarters. It seems that better housing 
is available through some city department. However, no matter how much a 
family may need .housing, there are hundreds of tiAi-Lf-ii similar applica 
tions ahead of them on the list. It was Mr. Lane s idea that a series of 
photographs of a particular condition might bring about action on a 
particular application. 

It so happened that a krs. Poster, 449 last 41st Street, was in the office 
at the time requesting same housing. Lane called me over to hear her 
story. She was a widower with three high school children, two girls and 
one boy, all living in this two room basement .partment. The Board of 
He 1th had given them four or five days eviction notice and when the lan- 
lord heard about it, for some reason, he, too, gave them a notice. They 
had no place to go and no one to look to for help except the Urban League. 
Lane suggested that this might be an opprotunity for me to start work on 
this sort of thing to which I agreed. 9 

I went to their appartment that evening. There was a small entrace way, 
about 3*x 6. in their main room, about 7 Xll 1 , was a double bed in which 
the mother and two daughers slept. Immediately adjacent to it was an old 
day bed in which Hughie, the son, slept, a senior at uuSable. There was o 
one dresser. fafrfi. the clothes were hung from water pipes along the ceiling 
and in the one free corner more clothes were hung tfn^ protected by an old 
sheet. The other room, about 7x7, was used as a kitchen, but it was so 
crowded, there was no place to work, The mother was suffering from a goiter 
and had been bed ridden for six or seven months. And yet, she was trying 
to raise her kids to be good human beings. The families only means of 
support was relief. Imagine her frustration knowing they had no home to 
enjoy and would stay away from home whenever they could which which was 

. . 1 .2 levembar 46 ; . . 

only reasonable, the parental influence was negligible and she of course 
realized it, I missed one picture of her that would hare summed up the 
futility of life under these conditions. She was sitting in a straight 
back chair leaning on the foot of the day bed holding her beautiful hands. 
together and Just staring into space. This carte closer to the expression 
of utter hopelessness than I hare yet seen. The family was very cooperative 
in helping me obtain any pictures I wanted. This was understandable as 
they hoped to obtain better living conditions throu gh these photographs. 
Unfortunately, I didn t do a good job and I missed opportunities. The 
pictures were delivered the next day tp Mr. Lane. 


. . 



itt : 
-inatn. .was. belied 

iOf the receiving fools, was. Vyoiiag ifiri; <3,piiag 
- that was felt in f an injured, right tiaMv^ .:$K^ 
andage.s evidently to tight,. Siae was all aln v 
have "been terrific because she; cotild hardly 

table i 

his right -eai-. 

"tle; vw^wifJ*- A f ew mintttes .;lateF 
, and %1-th His relatives v left 

; In oae 
bapk -the 

she felt 

I was . standirig in the hallway, outside the r ee"eivig|^goin when ths : 
ddor s\ting open and came - t^ojoT!tgifti-ji --land two; menTforagging i 
between "them the blood soaged remains of a man, A - trail .of 
was left; behind "thWu In the center of the. ro pm_; they; dropped 
legs. fwb ::| doct6rs dragged what was. left of his body int d 
room. His eyes were glazed and oiie could see he. Wiaisabqiit 
While they were working oh him., the police came and questioned" t : h : e:..^i|*; 
woinen.; One- of .them, his wife, about 26, was .dressed In- iK 
cohered with a, light top -coat.; She. was soaked with blood. 
aged 15, was the : other one. She was. a beligerent little cuss*; 
cops questioned her, she said, "1 ctit/ himjBath a. razor, and 
belietse it, go. back and look at : the.ggd^J^twalked into the 
rooffl and saw that his -left arm -ha.dA^STb = s^Yp5gB) seyered fr". 
: was .dead from loss of b lgfiy^r: Wfi.eii"7i walked back into- the .receiving 
.the women Ioo^^ : ^p^r^mef6r an answer. I -feduld dQ nothing bx^t -$ay> : 
be alright. "|pmissed .the lack of any anger of ttie wifc fe toward 
year old love^ It - was. rather one of l acceptance 1 Just. 1 then .the 
in .with the patient s brother .and- a couple of -frpirid s^ The. mother 
to see her boy .a ^fler -manner was composed. She knew se had to be due.Vt o 
bad heart.. The doctor came in then, walked up to the mother, 
"He s passed "away." The ..sweetheart showed no emotion* The. wif e 
violently. The. mother sat . s.MrMrdto space., her body s light IjflPsha&irig 
^ : -f our little children. Isn t it a shame, 




During this time, "watching these people and others who had "come in for 

various first aid treamtments so moved me that I just couldnH bring 
myself , to photograph it, just couldn t. How I ever, can do it, I don t .. 
know. The rest of the evening and until 8:.30 Sunday morning, an ice pick;, 
sticking/ a woman who had taken lysol ! in an effort to kill herself, a kid 
who had fallen down and cracked his. head, a woman who had taken an overdone 
of sleeping tablets , and an automobile accident case - all came * passing 
over the dried trail of blood. How I can photograph this sort of thing,- I 
just don t know. It is somehow ironical. In order to really see things, 
jone has to be so sympathetic - and to. photograph them, one must be so 
brutal. The people, relatives and friends, .who sat in the receiving room 
at different times during the course of the evening furnished -excellent 
picture material. But I could not photograph them. Their souls were too 
naked. I felt I had no right to trespass on their thoughts at that time 
under those conditions. 

The staff was most cooperative and offered any assistance I could wish for. 
The material is there if I can but have the courage to photograph it. 
Dr. Moore was the doctor in charge. Dr. Palmer performed the actual 
treatments. There were two nurses on duty. They say that Friday and 
Saturday are the best nights starting about 9; 00 and tapering off about 


... ...,. -.- . : N ,/ :.... " . . * 

. _.-..:, 9 

Emergency Room . .. ; ; . 

: I went over, a .little after 10:00. The. only activity imtil I: 


." ..., .- . . . .: - 

left the next morning was one, fellow who had tried to commit suicide by 
I drinking a glass .of lye^X .mixed :with liquor. The Negro detective commenting 

- 1 . 

: -. v on tMs /said, it was a "jive" suicide. Bhe f, wanted sympathy and ^di 

. * > . "* .", 

want to die. It was the detective s belief, that anyone desiring to take 


... . .. 

his IMe would accomplish the deed. 

Tonight, was a different matter. I arrived\there about 9:50. Tonight I had. 
..mor^^pur age than I had a week ago in. this same room. In this short pei^od 
of time,,. I had developed almost a detached" view point of this suffering. I- , 

made several pictures., However, I was aware of the negative reaction and 
antagonism in the patients , relatives and. friends which the camera caused. 
The photographs I made of people bcidly injureofor .helpless caused me to feel 

I had just been- caught, fi:ickin&-iaoh^lplfess dog. It ..shames me I 

There was one young cmcky ehap about 21 yeafcs old that strutted up and 


down the hallway for about an hour making remarks to me and the policeman 
as to what a tough fellow he wa-S . He insisted he had only a scratch on 
his arm caused by a broken window. But at the same time, he inferred he 
had been in a fight and would settle the score himself without the help 
of the police. Finally, in talking to me, I told him he had better go in 
and sit down, otherwise the nurses wouldn t realize he was there to be 


treated. He sat down, pass.ed out, and urinated in his trousers on to the 
floor. Mien his turn came, about minutes later, they removed his coat. 
, The flesh of the forearm wa ~. : laid open to the bone. The doctor had to 
sew the muscles together before pulling the outside skin together with stitches. 

t , 

He /-;.? a very plucky kid, but this feeling of thinking he could take care 
of his own problems as well as the desire to do so is, to me, very dangerous 

\ thinking. There is no doubt in my mind that it %&* entirely possible for 
\tliis same boy to fester ki 11-^ the kid that had caught him. 

^ - 

"I . .v-*Iis*i,~ .=..- 

.. . ,- . . 9 November 46 

It Was a busy night for accident cases and there were acftrat.. 18 cops . ; ; 
around. These .men appear to be nfost sceptical and very cynical.- .As to 
whether or not they have any .real interest in helping these people is. 
difficult to determine. r ^6Whit policeman, Joe August, is about as- 
ignorant a person as one would expect to meet. His good nature is h.3fce 
only redeeming feature. Two white detectives of : the homocide squad, 
Walter Johnson^ and Tom Walsh, nephew of the former sheriff, appear to be 
big, thick coppers, it. wold be interesting to. know them better in hopes 
that their ideals are better than their appearance. .The ph6tbgraphSi^ht / 
v made were not too exciting. The extension light on the stand was very , 
helpful and eventually, by putting in time, I think it will be possible 
to capture a definite phase of suffering in this hospital. " 


HATH *. KILIJBR 6 June 194? 

A legro family had aored into a white neighborhood* I stopped 
my car down the street and talked t a family on the porch. There 
were two brothers that had be.n in the laty. I asked them if they 
thought there was going to be anything doibg. The one with the cigar 
looked up knowingly and said, "maybe". Last night a crowd of 500 
people had broken windows and set a small fire in the first floor 
apartment of this Megro family. The first two floors were oceuped by 
white families. "Who is head of the Park Manor ImproYement Association?" 
* A man by the name of Kipple," answered the other brother. "He liree 
at 7329 Michigan." Kipple wasn t home and his wife suggested I see 
Mr. Dillon, president of the Park Manor imporTement Association. Mr. 

Dillon was just finishing his dinner. I stepped iftto a rery pleasant 
and comfortable bungolow type home. He introduced his sa.n f Lewis, and 
said, "If it is anything confidential, perhaps we had better not talk 
too loudly because we hare a Megro maid, you know." The Association 
had been haring its meiting when all this took place, and as we left 
they had the fire engines. A big crowd had gathered - a lot of kids. 
You know how kids are, they IOTC to hare a good time. The police had 
done their best to keep the crowd under control, ly then all the 
neighbors were just standing about talking about the world ih general. " 
I thanked him for his help, and he said, "If you hare aay trouble 
taking pictures, tell them you are on our side and, if heed be, hare 
them call me and I ll straighten them out. The neighborhood is lovely 
All are "bungalow type homes of one and two story, nicely kept lawns. 
Right across the street and down a little ways was a rery nice garden 


WAY*! 1. MILLIR 6 June 1947 

- 2 *. 

just coming up. Ally good paper boy could hate hie garden like that. 
Looking out of the front window of a frame building right next to it 
was a little innocent eyed boy in a night shirt looking wide-eyed 


at the police car drawn up in front of the jfegro owned aprtmeat 
building. As it grew darker, the crowd increased* in each little 
group there seemed to be at least one person talking excitedly. The 
man that sold them the place, he s the one that they should go after* 
They hare ho right to more in a white neighborhood. They should know 
better." "They only want to live near white folks." "What they 
ought to do is throw a tfolotof cocktail in there. That should take 
care of them. " A big, bald fellow in G.I, clothes turned and said, 
"I te used lots of those. Any morning on 63rd Street cars going to 
work - no matter iwhere you get on, they are all sitting nejct to the 
windows. Wow what can you do about that?" The little fellow was 
still sitting ia the window. Right across from the apartment building, 
a Tugolslar man about 65, an old Tugoslor, came from around the back 
of his house and stood looking across the street. He looked at me, 
we smiled. He talked about hie house, his shrubs, his Tines, his 
roses. He was so proud of his home. He took me to the back of the house 
and showed me his rose bushes, his fig tree - how good those figs were. 
Some street cars rattled by a half a block away and he told me how his 
wife would feed the birds every morning, when they came and perched n 
the window sill. The outside walls are 27 inches thick. They don t 
make them that way anymore. He was quiet for quite a while as he 
looked across the street. "Stery man for himself is the right way." 
He turned, "You hate a beer wtih me?" 


WAYWS 1. MILLIE 6 june 1947 


- 3 - 

After leafing the bar, the four orhers of the street were 
illuminated with RR flares. The kids were having a fine time. A 

cop walked ter and with his .billy club, kicked eoe of theariat the 

gutter* "Bigger loirer^. ao on, beat it.^^Toa couldn t beat year 


way out of a paper bag. If you could, yom wouldn t be here. "That s 

right," said Kay. She was standing with three other teen-aged girls. 
Ae we heard the sound of more windows being broken, "It s all so 
childish.-*- This isn t getting any place." More groups , more talking; 
more rocks being thrown from nowhere, from no oae, at the windows - 
more groups, more talking. "Did- you know a policeman by the name of 
Collins that lires on the first floor? His wife aoted out all the 
valuable things and insured the rest of the things today." "The 
fellow that sold the niggers the property, he s the one we should 
get. He s a Jew, I understand, name s Rutt. You know, he has that 
office at 79th and Western." A ten year old Toi&e piped up, "How 
about a neok-tie party? Get what I mean?" "I doa t know why niggers 
whnt to more into white neighborhoods, they know they are not wanted." 
Middle-aged woman, " they a^l living here and walking down the streets 
at night The trouble is we hafen t got any 

organization." A bare headed woman about 30, soft lovely features, 
understanding eyes, looked up, "They knew what to do in our neighbor-* 
hood - Burn them out." As she sighed eo softly, she said, "And they 
did a beautiful job." The little boy at the window had gone to bed. 
The windows were broken, the police had the crowds back at a safe 
distance. People were tired and going home. All except a young 
couple necking in a car across the street from the apartment. 



Wayne F. Miller, 10 Highland Court, Orinda, CA 94563, 925-254-3984 

Notesfor possible inclusion in oral history 

" "N 

Flash bulbs: 

Appropro of really nothing I have some memories of flash bulbs In my work the 
"trghtiiaS^een so poor that I have relied on bulbs rather trhan trying to use existing 

During the early part of World War II, I was photographing paratrooper training at 
Cherry Point 

battery. This night jump might make a spectaular image if all went well. As they 
jumped I asked them to fire the bulb by squeezing the bulb and batt. They agreed 
to do their best but my planning was faulty and only some of the bulbs went off. 

After the war, Eleanor Rosevelt was visiting San Francisco and appeared at the 
Fairmount Hotel on a raft floating on the pool in their South Pacific Room ? As 
she stood there and floated toward me I fired my flash bulb and it exploded! A 
drop of water caused it to explode. It caused a real fuss. I learned that a family 
member had been facially injured by an exploding bulb. Eleanora was so shocked 
that she had a law passed that mandated the coating of bulbs to prevent this sort of 
thing from happening. 

An earlier experience when I was ithe University of 

My first jiejiLcpaper assignment was to cover the "Homeconimg night held in rthe 
Armory. A serie of tables displaying facets of the schools were on display and 
incoming students could have an opportunity for an overview of what to expect. 
Out Year book:"The Illio" wanted to include a bit of this and I was asked to cover 
it. In anticipation of having to make a lot of photographs in a short space of time, 
I filled by bag with about thirty bulbs minus their protective paper covers.I worked 
quickly and fell that I was doing a good job. That is until I found that I was 
running out of bulbs. Each time I made an exposure I would quickly replace my 
bulb with a new one. Putting the last bulb in my bag and reaching for a new one, 
I learned for the first time that heat alone could fire my flash bulbs. All thirty of 
my bulbs had gone off and I was finished for the night. 

A special barbeque was being held at Santa Maria. Colliers Magazine wanted me 
to photograph this in color. It was raining outside so we were in this crowded 
ranch type dining room. Lots of people and lots of music and noise. I put my 
open case ofT20 bulbs in a convenient spot and went to work. All was going fine 

until 1 needed more bulbs and then found that the diners had filled my case wirth 
greasy spare ribs and napkins and beer bottles. 



FDR, ". . .and don t forget to put in some that God stuff," according to Carl Sandburg, a remark 
made by FDR after meeting with his speechwriters. 

DDE, looking at the Taj Mahal with Nehru, "It s beautiful. I dreamed of this ever since I was a 
boy in Kansas." 

Herbert Hoover, "Looking back after all these years, what do you think of your political 
enemies?" "I couldn t care less. All the bastards have died off." 

Eleanor Roosevelt, "Tell me what you want me to do so I can get rid of you sooner." 
Ava Gardner, "I have to sleep with someone before I can be friends." 

My life as a photographer has been one of painful frustrations. How can I get what I see and feel 
onto my film? I ve tried getting closer and closer to my subjects using close-up lenses but that 
works in only a few situations, close-ups of Joan s labor pains and in some other portraits, hands, 
etc. When too close I can t see what or how I can capture my feelings. 

If I could photograph at these times I question whether the photograph would say how I feel. 
There must be some way. To get into another s mind, to see through their eyes is the ultimate 
invasion of privacy of their souls. 

In my lifetime I ve seen and felt important moments. Why can t I get them on film? Are there 
limits to photography? What are they? 

I think of telling Joan that her mother has died in Provident Hospital ER. hi my mind, "Get the 
pictures first and worry about it later." Easy to say but hard to do. To get into another head and 
to see and feel through their eyes. To tell my subject s story, that has been my goal. Empathic. 

When on assignment I know that when I feel deeply with my subject it will be on my film. And 
when I don t feel anything 1 know there won t be anything there. But how can I make 
photographs when the conditions are so naked and raw and personal. Yet without this oneness 


with their moment and my subject it won t be on my film. Such a moment of richness yet one of 

Regarding the Guggenheim work on "The Way of Life of the Northern Negro." This work could 
easily consume a lifetime. If after a year I haven t made an appreciable dent in the subject, then it 
is well that I quit. I am not qualified to go further. 

Yes, there are authorities I wish to work with. They are the average northern Negro. Of course 
there are persons that have made Negroes a study and to them I will go for as much information 
as possible. But I do not wish to have connection with persons or groups which will tell me to 
photograph only this or only that. The average Negro will tell me. 

Tentative arrangements have been made with U.S. Camera Publishing Co. for eventual 
publication if the completed material is deemed worthy. 

INDEX-Wayne F. Miller 


Adams, Ansel, 20,47, 112-113, 123, 128, 


Adams, link, 22 
Algren, Nelson, 70 
American Society of Magazine 

Photographers, 134-136 
Aperture, 124-125 
Arnold, Eve, 140-141 
Art Center School of Photography, 21-24, 


Baby s First Year, 132 
Baer, Morley, 100 
Behr, Peter, 151-152 
Binford, Tom, 24 
Black Star agency, 140 
Bourke- White, Margaret, 131 
Bristol, Horace, 80 
Burden, Shirley, 123-125 
Burns, Ben, 69-70 
Burri, Rene, 5 

Calderone, Mary, 143-144 
Callahan, Harry, 1, 19-20, 58, 65 
cameras discussed 

Argus, 17 

Rolleiflex, 7, 28-29, 32-33, 37-38, 
58-59, 64 

Speed Graphic, 17-18,23,28,32 

Contax, 35 mm, 58-59 
Capa, Cornell, 37-38, 97 
Carder-Bresson, Henri, 1, 5, 25, 73, 100, 


Cayton, Horace, 68-69, 73 
Chapnick, Howard, 140 
Chermayeff, Serge, 65 
Chicago Southside, 2, 4, 7 

Church, Thomas, 83 

Cornell, Will, 24,31 

Corbett, Mario, 82-83 

Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public 

Broadcasting Environment Center, 158 
Cunningham, Imogen, 100,111 

D Harnoncourt, Rene, 115, 122, 130 
DeLellis, Keith, 46 
Doukhobor community, 52-53 

Ebony magazine, 69, 94 
Ehlers,Fred, 150 
Eisenstadt, Alfred, 61 
Elisofon, Eliot, 76 
Erikson, Erik, 132-133 
Eyerman, Jay, 41 

Family of Man, 2, 4, 48-49, 67, 109-1 19 

passim, 128-131 

Farm Security Administration, 29, 49 
Farmer s wife story, 89, 128 
Forest Landowners of California, 148, 150 
forestry, 144-1 55 passim 
Forscher, Marry, 29 
Frank, Robert, 57-58, 111, 125 
Friends of Photography, Ansel Adams 

Center, 121-122 

Galassi, Peter, 47 

Gee, Helen, Limelight Gallery, 71 

Gould, Bruce, 63 

Greenberg, Howard, 45 

Gutmann, John, 100 


Halsman, Philippe, 87, 135 
Hartzog, George, 151,156 
Haven, Kathleen, 1 1 6 
Hiroshima, photographs after the bombing, 
39-44 passim 

Institute of Design, Chicago, 65-67 

Johnson, Bob, 126 
Johnson, Drew, 121 
Jones, Pirkle, and Ruth-Marion Baruch 
Jones, 100 

Karsch, Yousuf, 7 
Knight, Goodwin, 97 
Korean War, 88,91-93 

Ladies Home Journal, 62-65 

Lange, Dorothea, 47,60,79, 101, 111-112, 


Lewis, Bob, 28 
Life magazine, 5, 21, 30, 38, 48, 52-62 

passim, 76-78, 85-91 passim, 125-128 
Loyalty Oath, 86-87 
Luce, Henry, 54 

Mackland, Ray, 77 

Magnum Photos, 25,91, 107, 136-140 

Maloney, Tom, 31, 64 

Mansfield, Jayne, 90 

Mason, Jerry, 132-133 

Maybeck, Bernard, 81 

Mayer, Grace McCann, 130 

McLuhan, Marshall, 5 1 -52 

Meiselas, Susan, 140 

Meyer, Agnes, 62, 130 

Miller, Joan, passim 

Miller, Wayne 

approach to subjects, 6-7, 35-37 
assignments, 5 1 -62 passim 
assignments from California base, 


ASMP and Magnum, 134-140 
battle stations, fear, 34-36 
the birth series, 62-64 
building a house, 81-84 
captions, 64, 107 
changes in world of photographer, 


Chicago background, 9-13 
darkroom work, 125-127 
education, 17-24 
on environmentalism, 150-152 
first camera, 17-20, see also cameras 


forester, Miller Tree Farm, 144-155 
Guggenheim, "The Way of Life of the 

Northern Negro," 67-70 
"high-strung" on the job, 98-99 
marriage to Joan, 50 
move to Orinda, California, 79-88 


National Park Service, 155-158 
packing it in, 1 4 1 - 1 42 
parents, brother, 7-16 
the photographer s intention, 103-105 
photographing children of Naples, 30, 

photography in museums, 46-47, 

September 11, 2001 images, 103-111 


teaching, 65-67, 96 
USN, WWII, 27-45, 103-105 
value of experience, 96 
The World is Young, 131-133 
working on The Family of Man, 


Model, Lisette, 34 
Moffit,Hugh, 54 
museums, photography in, 46-47, 121-123 


Museum of Modern Art, photography 

department, 46-47 
Mydans, Carl, 37-38,48, 61 

National Environmental Education 

Development, 156 
National Geographic, 124,137 
Newsweek magazine, 51-52 
Nixon, Richard M., 96-97 

Oakland Museum of California, 
photography department, 121 
Okamoto, Yoichi, 155 
Orshefsky, Milt, 93 
Osborn, Bob, 20,28 

Page, Christina, 1 1 1 
Parks, Gordon, 2-5 
People magazine, 88, 143 
Phillips, Sandra, 121-122 
photography dealers, collectors, galleries, 
35-47,70-71, 121-122 

Rockefeller, Nelson, 115,122 
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 59-60 
Rosenthal, Joe, 108 
Rudolph, Paul, 113, 118-119 

Salgado, Sebastiao, 140 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 45 

Siegel, Art, 65 

Sinsabaugh, Art, 66 

Skarda, Rudolph, 86 

Smith, Eugene, 7, 30-32, 77-78, 108, 

118-119, 128-129 
Sommer, Frederick, 1 
Spock, Benjamin, 64, 132-133 
Stackpole, Peter, 85,135-136 
Stanford, Sally, 88 

Steichen, Edward, 3-5, 21 -45 passim, 

70-71, 109-11 9 passim, 130-131, 143-144 
Stryker, Roy, 29 
Szarkowski, John, 1 3 1 

Taylor, Paul, 101, 140-141 

Terkel, Studs, 73-74 

"The Way of Life of the Northern Negro," 

67-76 passim 
The World is Young, 54, 84, 89, 107, 124, 


Thompson, Ed, 55-56,61,78 
Tolman, Edward Chace, 87 

U.S. Camera Annual, 31,64 

Udall, Stewart, 155-156 

United States Department of the Interior, 

National Park Service, 141, 151, 155-158 
United States Navy, 27-45 passim 
Bureau of Aeronautics, 27-28 
University of California, Berkeley, Loyalty 

Oath, 86-87 

Weston, Edward, 2 1 , 3 1 , 49, 7 1 
White, Minor, 100, 113,124 
Wilson, Hicks, 78 
World Trade Center bombing, 

September 11, 2001, images, 103-105, 

World War II, 27-45 

Yosemite Institute, 157 


Suzanne Bassett Riess 

Grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in 
English from Goucher College in 1957. For several summers she was 
a feature writer for the Bethlehem Globe-Times of Bethlehem, 
Pennsylvania. She did her graduate work in English literature at the 
University of London, and in art history at the University of 
California, Berkeley. She has been a senior editor in the Regional 
Oral History Office since 1960, interviewing in the fields of art and 
architecture, photography, social and cultural history, anthropology, 
writing, journalism, horticulture, physics, and University history. Her 
other interests have included many years of being a natural science 
decent at the Oakland Museum, that museum s Council on 
Architecture, free-lance photography, writing, gardening, and travel.